- 1 Updates
- 2 Actions Taken by the State Government
- 3 Elected Officials
- 4 Key Upcoming Elections
- 4.1 Federal Elections
- 4.2 State Elections
- 4.3 Local Elections
- 5 Obamacare / ACA
- 6 Policing
- 7 Immigration
- 8 Voting Rights
- 9 Mass Incarceration
- 10 Tax Cuts for the Wealthy
- 11 Housing/Infrastructure
- 12 Women's Rights/Reproductive Justice
- 13 LGBTQ+ Issues
- 14 Educational Justice
- 15 Consumer Protections / Workers' Rights
- 16 Climate / Environment
- 17 Disability Rights
- 18 Organizations
- 19 Immigration
- 20 Local News Sources
- 21 Relevant City and County Information
- 2/23/2017: Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson stated that protections for transgender and gender-nonconforming students will be enforced, despite the Trump administration's order to rescind the Obama-era policy prohibiting discrimination against transgender students. A Seattle Public Schools spokesperson said the district would continue to enforce its nondiscrimination policy.
Actions Taken by the State Government
Legislation that Supports Equity and Justice
Important bills proposed by Washington lawmakers this legislative session that should be supported:
- HB 1523 would require health plans to cover, for free, all preventive services required to be covered under federal law as of December 31, 2016 (under Obamacare).
- HB 1646 would institute a carbon tax.
Harmful bills proposed by Washington lawmakers this legislative session that should be opposed:
- HB 1006 would allow the state to prohibit unions that collectively bargain on behalf of both members and nonmembers from requiring union fees for the services they provide to all workers they represent. Such "right to work" laws are designed to reduce unions' income and power.
- SB 5009 would increase penalties for blocking highways and railways, acts that the bill's sponsor has characterized as “economic terrorism.”
- SB 5280 Making crimes and threats against persons because of their occupation as a law enforcement officer a hate crime.
- HB 1398 Making crimes and threats against persons because of their occupation as a law enforcement officer a hate crime.
See also the main policy pages for federal legislative tracking.
Key Upcoming Elections
Click here to find out if you're registered to vote. Register to vote here. The deadline is 29 days before Election Day if you register by mail or online. The deadline is 8 days before Election Day if you register in person. You will need proof of identity when you register to vote. Washington is a vote-by-mail state—no document is required to vote.
2018 Competitive House Elections
- Washington District 8 is a competitive district with the potential to flip to blue. Representative Dave Reichert (R) won the 2016 election with 59.7% of the vote. Clinton won the district in the 2016 presidential election with 47.7% of the vote.
2018 Senate Elections
- Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell will be up for reelection in 2018.
2017 Competitive Legislative Special Election
- LD45 State Senator: Due to the passing of Andy Hill last year, there will be a special election for the state senator from LD45 (Redmond, Kirkland, and other Eastside suburbs). Dino Rossi has been appointed to replace him until a special election in 2017. Washington Democrats only need to flip one seat in the State Senate to regain control of the state legislature. In the 2016 General Election, this district elected two Democrats to the state house; one ran unopposed and the other won nearly 62% of the vote. No candidates have filed yet.
2017 Noncompetitive Legislative Special Elections
- LD7 State Senator: Shelly Short (R) has been appointed to the seat left vacant by Brian Dansel and will face a special election in 2017. In 2016, Short ran unopposed for the Washington State House from LD7. Her fellow Republican House candidate won with more than 75% of the vote.
- LD31 State Senator: Phil Fortunato (R) has been appointed to the seat left vacant by Pam Roach. There will be a special election in 2017 for this district. Fortunato won this district's house seat in 2016 with nearly 58% of the vote.
- LD31 State Representative: Morgan Irwin (R) has been appointed to the seat left vacant by Phil Fortunato and will face a special election in 2017. Irwin lost a primary bid to Fortunato in the previous general election.
- LD37 State Senator: After Pramila Jayapal won her election to become the US Representative from WA-7, Rebecca Saldaña (D), a former union organizer and executive director of Puget Sound Sage, has been appointed to fill her seat in the state senate. She will face a special election in 2017.
2017 Seattle Mayoral Election
Mayor Ed Murray is running for reelection in 2017. Democracy Vouchers cannot be used in mayoral elections until 2021.
Active campaigns as listed by the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission:
- Mary Juanita Martin
- Ed Murray (Incumbent)
- Andres Salomon
- Alex Tsimerman
- Keith Whiteman
- King County will hold elections for the County Executive and County Council in 2017. The primary will take place on August 1, 2017, with the top two candidates proceeding to the general election on November 7, 2017.
Seattle City Council
Due to a ballot measure requiring the Seattle City Council to be elected by district with two citywide council members, all seats on the Seattle City Council were up for election in 2015 and set for a staggered cycle of four-year terms. In 2017, two citywide seats (8 and 9) will be up for election. Qualifying candidates in these elections will be eligible to receive Democracy Vouchers. The incumbent of District 8, Tim Burgess, has decided not to run for reelection. The incumbent of District 9, Lorena González, will be running for reelection.
Position 8 Active Campaigns (italicized candidates are eligible to receive Democracy Vouchers):
- Ryan Asbert
- Hisam Goueli
- Jon Grant
- Jenn Huff
- Roger Kluck
- Mac S. McGregor
- Teresa Mosqueda
- Rudy Pantoja
- Sheley Secrest
Position 8 Active Campaigns (italicized candidates are eligible to receive Democracy Vouchers):
- Lorena González (Incumbent)
Seattle voters approved the Honest Elections Initiative in 2015 to establish a form of public campaign financing and establish more campaign contribution restrictions for lobbyists and contractors. Beginning with the 2017 local elections, all Seattle residents are eligible to receive 4 Democracy Vouchers, worth $25 each for the campaigns that receive them. Campaigns are only eligible to receive the vouchers if they agree to more strict contribution limits and restrictions on outside expenditures. After they take the pledge and receive enough signatures with donations ($10–$250), they are eligible to receive Democracy Vouchers as campaign contributions.
Key Points for Voters:
- Eligible participants must be: 1. Seattle residents, 2. at least 18 years of age, and 3. US citizens, US nationals, or lawful permanent residents. Those registered to vote should have received their vouchers in the first week of January. People who are not yet registered can apply for vouchers from the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission.
- Voters will receive four vouchers, worth $25 each, and may give more than one voucher to any candidate. The vouchers must be signed with the same verified signature used on ballots, as they will be checked by King County Elections.
- In 2017, the races for city council and city attorney are eligible to receive Democracy Vouchers. Mayoral elections will begin using them in 2021.
- Donations with vouchers are a matter of public record.
- If there is a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, 671,822 people in Washington (or 9.3% of the population) are estimated to lose coverage, whereas 775,000 people (or 10.6% of the population) will lose coverage with a partial repeal. (Retrieved 1/26/2017 from ACA Repeal Impact, state-by-state.) This is because with a full repeal, premiums will not increase the way they would under a partial repeal, since insurance companies will be able to discriminate on the basis of preexisting conditions and won't be required to provide essential health benefits. Not covering preexisting conditions will disproportionately affect people with disabilities.
- The number of uninsured people in Washington is predicted to be 522,000 by 2021 under the ACA. Without the ACA, that number is expected to rise to 1,169,000, a 124.2% increase.
- Washington is among the states that lost the ability to place lifetime limits on coverage, because that practice is banned by the ACA; those limits are likely to be reinstated under a full repeal.
- Gender-rating has been banned in the state of Washington under the ACA; a repeal could bring back that coverage gap.
- Given that a repeal of the ACA would also change payment structures and subsidies, 41,000 jobs could be lost in Washington. When federal funding is cut, it creates a ripple effect that affects local and state revenue, thus creating losses in economic activity and employment.
- Under the ACA Repeal-and-Delay strategy, young adults in Washington could pay $468 more in 2018.
- Police in Washington state have been found to use deadly force at the 19th highest rate in the US.
- Police killed 97 people in Washington from 2013 through 2016.
- People are killed by police in Washington state at three times the rate as in Connecticut, despite the fact that the two states have fairly similar populations and demographics.
- Police killed black people in Washington at a rate three times higher than white people.
Policy Solutions / Issues
- Deadly Force Law: Washington state has one of the most permissive laws in the country regarding when police can use deadly force against civilians. The current deadly force law requires the prosecution to prove that the officer acted with "malice" and without "good faith" in order to convict the officer for a deadly police-involved killing. In 2016, a legislative task force recommended that the law be changed to remove this requirement..
- House Bill 1529 is currently being considered by Washington lawmakers to change the deadly force standard to make it easier to hold officers accountable for unjustifiably using deadly force and to strengthen training requirements to include anti-bias training.
- In 2013, Washington had 943,664 immigrants, making up 13.5% of the population.
- There are an estimated 250,000 undocumented immigrants in Washington, making up 3.6% of the population.
Rights of Non-Citizens
- Washington offers drivers' licenses regardless of immigration status.
- Washington allows undocumented immigrants to attend public college at the same in-state tuition rate as legal residents and citizens.
- In 2012, President Barack Obama signed an executive order (DACA) that defers deportation for children who were brought to the country as children. The action allows them to work lawfully but does not create a pathway to citizenship or give them legal status in the United States. In Washington, 27,977 individuals have benefited from this executive action.
- 8.8% of K-12 students in Washington had undocumented parents in 2014.
- Undocumented immigrants in Washington made up 5% of the labor workforce in 2014.
- If all undocumented workers were removed from Washington, the state would lose $14.5 billion in economic activity.
- Undocumented immigrants paid $301.9 million in state and local taxes in Washington in 2012. If they all had legal status, they would pay $332.1 million.
- Several counties in Washington have sanctuary policies, including King County, which includes Seattle.
- Washington resettled 3,233 refugees in 2016, ranking eighth among all states.
- Washington’s Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance provides health, education, and employment services.
The Washington Legislature made great progress toward automatic voter registration at multiple government agencies, building on its electronic and online voter registrations systems. On February 15, the Washington House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill. Although the Senate version of the bill did not make it out of committee, partly due to the short legislative session, advocates continue to press for the state’s adoption of this reform.
- In 2014, 30,202 people were incarcerated in Washington, plus a probation population of 89,199 and parole population of 9,500.
- Of the prison population, 2,623 people were serving life sentences, and 623 were serving life sentences without parole.
- 1,014 juveniles were in custody in Washington in 2013.
- In Washington, a black person is 5.7 times more likely to be incarcerated than a white person.
- Washington does not have any private prisons.
- Corrections expenditures in 2014 were $949 million.
Tax Cuts for the Wealthy
- Washington residents who face a tax increase under Trump’s plan:
- Households: 190,000
- Adults and children: 594,000
- Children: 344,000
- In 2015, an average of 572,261 households and 1,070,933 individuals received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP, formerly called Food Stamps) in a given month in Washington. In 2011, approximately 15% of the population of Washington was receiving SNAP benefits. The average monthly benefit per Washington household was $220 per household and $117 per person in 2016.
- In 2016, an average of 67,034 households, including 30,302 families and 48,654 children, received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which is direct financial assistance, in a given month. The average monthly benefit for a single parent with three children residing in Washington was $521 in 2014. Average benefits in Washington have fallen in value by 37.4% since 1996.
- In 2016, an average of 38,835 women received funds from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in a given month.
- In December 2015, there were 17,110 Social Security recipients in the "aged" category receiving $471.88 per person on average, for a total of $8,074,000.
- 221,800 low-income families spent more than half of their income on housing.
- In 2014, Washington had 29 units (less than the national average) of affordable and available housing for every 100 households categorized as “extremely low income” (at or below 30% of area median income.)
- In Washington, there were 20,827 homeless people in 2016.
- Of the homeless population, there were 2,185 families, 1,484 veterans, 1,215 unaccompanied young adults (18-24), and 2,567 people experiencing chronic homelessness.
- Washington received $705 million in federal rental assistance funding in 2014.
- In Washington, more than 91,000 families relied on federal rental assistance in 2014.
- Nearly all Washington households using federal rental assistance included children, elderly people or disabled people.
- King County has an estimated 10,000 homeless people, the third largest number in US cities, behind Los Angeles and New York City. 41% of homeless people are black, compared to 6% of the total population.
- People of color have moved out of Seattle as housing prices have risen. For example, the Central District neighborhood of Seattle was 80% black in 1990, and it is now 20%.
- Cities in Washington are preempted by state law from enacting rent control and other types of affordable housing policies.
- Washington's infrastructure received a score of C from the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2015.
- This study gave the state a “good” score for dams, and identified roads and transit as being in “poor” condition.
- In 2013, the Department of Transportation found that 26.1% of Washington's bridges were structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, and 67% of Washington's roads were in poor or mediocre condition.
- Driving on these roads leads to an additional $272 per motorist per year in increased vehicle repairs and operating costs.
- According to Governor Jay Inslee (D), the Sound Transit light rail expansion, which will help with road congestion and support 200,000 family-wage jobs, is a major infrastructure goal for Washington.
- Seattle just broke ground on a new streetcar, the Center City Connector, which is projected to open by 2020.
Women's Rights/Reproductive Justice
- Washington has 35 Planned Parenthood centers.
- In 2015, 23 centers were in rural, medically underserved, or health-provider shortage areas.
- On average, there is one Planned Parenthood for 40,658 women of reproductive age.
- There were 50 abortion providers providers in Washington in 2015.
- In 2014, 12.5 out of every 1,000 women of reproductive age in Washington had an abortion. The national abortion rate is 14.6.
Washington has no major restrictions on abortion access.
Women and Wages
- In Washington, 12.5% of women live in poverty. Single mothers make up 34% of women living in poverty, while women age 65 and older make up 8.7%.
- For every dollar made by men, women are paid $0.79, which is one cent below the national average of $0.80.
- African-American women are paid $0.61 for every dollar paid to white men, while Latina women make $0.46 for every dollar made by white men.
Domestic Violence in Washington
- On a single day in 2014, Washington domestic violence programs served 1,930 victims/survivors; 549 were turned away due to a lack of resources.
- In 2014, intimate partners perpetrated almost 20% of aggravated assaults and more than 32% of simple assaults.
- Intimate partners were responsible for 41% of abductions in the state of Washington in 2014.
- An estimated 28.3% Washingtonian women will face stalking victimization in their lifetime.
- 44 Washingtonians were killed in domestic violence homicides in 2014.
- 51.9% of Washington domestic violence femicides are committed with guns.
Religious freedom law
- Religious freedom laws protect people's right to practice their religion and limit laws imposing on that right, and were intended to protect religious minorities. However, after same-sex marriage was legalized, conservative states have attempted to enact similar laws with provisions that allow discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals.
- Washington does not have any religious freedom laws, and the State Supreme Court has confirmed that the State's nondiscrimination laws, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, do prevent businesses from refusing to serve same-gender couples on religious grounds.
Washington has laws protecting LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, insurance, credit, adoption and foster care. The state also has a nondiscrimination policy for state employees.
Washington has laws protecting LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in some areas of parenting, including foster care, surrogacy, parental presumption for same-sex couples and de facto parent recognition.
Hate crime laws
Washington includes LGBTQ+ people in hate crime protections and requires reporting of such crimes.
Washington has laws for transgender inclusion in sports and LGBTQ+ inclusive sex education laws. The state lacks laws protecting LGBTQ+ youth from conversion therapy, laws to address LGBTQ+ youth homelessness, and LGBTQ+ inclusive juvenile justice policies.
Health and safety laws
Washington bans insurance exclusions for trans health care, has nondiscrimination protections in the ACA exchanges, provides transgender inclusion in state Medicaid and allows gender marker changes on identification documents.
- Washington is ranked 29th in per-pupil spending as of 2013, with an average expenditure of $9,672 per student.
- As of 2013, Washington ranked 23rd in teacher pay, with teachers earning an average of $53,571 per year.
- 89% of students in Washington attend public schools. As is the case in other states, students who attend private schools come from wealthier families, with private school families earning an average 57% higher income.
- As of 2014, there were no students enrolled in charter schools in Washington.
- Washington's overall graduation rate is 78%, just below the national average. By subgroups, four-year graduation rates in Washington are as follows:
- White: 81%
- Latino: 68%
- Black: 68%
- Asian/Pacific Islander: 85%
- American Indian: 57%
- Economically Disadvantaged: 67%
- Limited English Proficient: 54%
- Students with Disabilities: 56%
- In 2012, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that the State Legislature had failed to fulfill its paramount duty to “make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.” This ruling was a step toward creating educational equity in the state. The ruling was vague and confused lawmakers, because they were tasked with both identifying what "ample provision" actually meant and then with achieving "ample provision" for every child's education.
- In legislative sessions after McCleary, the Legislature has struggled to pass significant improvements to the education system due to a divided Legislature.
Consumer Protections / Workers' Rights
- Washington has a state minimum wage of $11.00. The minimum wage is set to rise to $11.50 in 2018, $12.00 in 2019, and $13.50 in 2020, and annual indexed increases will begin in 2020.
- Washington has a state law for paid sick leave, in which workers earn one hour of sick leave for ever forty hours worked. This leave can be used for sick leave, caring for a sick family member, absences related to a family member's domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault, or closures due to health reasons.
- Washington has no state law for paid family leave.
- Washington is a state with an at-will exemption. "At-will" means that an employer can terminate an employee at any time for any reason, except an illegal one, or for no reason, without breaking the law. Likewise, an employee is free to leave a job at any time for any or no reason with no adverse legal consequences.
- Washington also has a public policy exemption, meaning that an employer may not fire an employee if it would violate the state's public policy doctrine or a state or federal statute, including refusing to perform an act that state law prohibits (e.g., refusing an employer's request to commit perjury at a trial), reporting a violation of the law (e.g., reporting an employer's fraudulent accounting practices or use of child labor), engaging in acts that are in the public interest (e.g., joining the National Guard or performing jury duty) and exercising a statutory right (e.g., filing a claim under the state workers' compensation law).
- Washington does allow for implied contract exemptions.. An implied contract can be created in several different ways: oral assurances by a supervisor; or handbooks, policies or practices as written assurances by the employer. This means that if there is no written contract between the employer and employee, that employee may have an exception of fixed term or even indefinite employment based on an employer's statements. As a general rule, courts disregard language promising long-term, lifetime or permanent employment as aspirational and consider the relationship to be at-will.
- Washington does not support the Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing. Courts have interpreted the covenant in different ways, from requiring just cause for termination to prohibiting terminations made in bad faith or motivated by malice.
Climate / Environment
- More than 60% of Washington's electricity generation is hydroelectric. Fossil fuels account for 16%.
- Washington has 51 sites on the National Priorities List.
- Approximately 30% of Washington's land is federally owned.
- A recent survey in the greater Seattle area demonstrated that there is a disproportionate impact of diesel exhaust on the predominantly black and brown neighborhoods of Georgetown and South Park, compared to other measured sites in the area. Asthma rates in children are substantially higher in South Park compared to other neighborhoods, and life expectancy is eight years lower than the city average.
- In 2014, the Black and Asian or Pacific Islander populations had the highest air pollution exposure indices—of 81—compared to an overall index of 60 and a White index of 57.
- In 2012, Native American adults in Washington were most likely to have asthma—16%, compared to 9.5% overall and 9.8% of the White population.
- Environmental and environmental justice advocates have expressed concerns about the Trump administration's potential effects on efforts such as the Duwamish River cleanup..
- The relevant environmental agency in Washington is the Department of Ecology, which is federally granted its authority by the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Pollution Prevention Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, the Coastal Zone Management Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
- Roughly 10% of the department's budget is directly federally funded. Its top two spending areas are water quality (45%) and toxic cleanup (16%).
- In 2016, a ballot initiative that would have implemented a carbon tax failed.
- Current state greenhouse-gas limits would see a reduction in overall emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and a 50% reduction below 1990 levels by 2050..
- 12.9% of Washington's residents are disabled, compared with the national average of 12.6%. [2015 US Census American Community Survey, Table R1810]
- The employment rate among disabled adults in Washington is 37.4%, compared to the national average of 34.9%. People without disabilities in Washington have a 78.5% employment rate. [2015 US Census American Community Survey, Table R1811]
- Approximately 16.7% of eligible voters in Washington have one or more disabilities, compared to a national average of 15.7%.
- Of adults with disabilities in Washington, 26.2% live in poverty, as opposed to 10% of non-disabled adults. [2015 US Census American Community Survey, Table B23024]
- In Washington, 17.6% of adults with disabilities between 18 and 64 receive SSI (Supplemental Security Income), compared to the national average of 5.4%. [2015 US Census American Community Survey, Table B19056]
Disability Rights Organizations
- Alliance of People with disAbilities—Seattle Office, 1120 E Terrace St. Suite 100. Seattle, WA 98122. tel:866-545-7055
- Alliance of People with disAbilities—Bellevue Office, 1150 140th Ave N.E. Suite 101, Bellevue, WA 98005. tel:866-216-3335
- Disability Rights Washington—315 5th Avenue South, Suite 850, Seattle, WA 98104. tel:800-562-2702
- Washington State Developmental Disabilities Council—2600 Martin Way E., Suite F, Olympia, WA 98506. tel:800-634-4473.
- Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii educates and lobbies on behalf of women’s health and works to elect candidates who support family planning and the full range of reproductive health care.
Environmental Justice Groups
- 350 Seattle
- Alliance for Clean Jobs and Energy
- Community Alliance for Global Justice
- Environment Washington
- Got Green
- Puget Sound Sage
- Washington Environmental Council
- Seattle Communists, Communist Labor Party: "We're a nondenominational communist collective in Capitol Hill and the Central District, mostly queer and trans. Dual Power is our philosophy: new people's institutions that can start replacing capitalism and the current government, here and now. Fighting gentrification is our focus. Our projects right now are starting a new Q-Patrol Copwatch and our Revolutionary Study Group."
- Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites "is a group of white people in the Seattle area working to undo institutional racism and white privilege through education and organizing in white communities and active support of anti-racist, people of color-led organizations. We support the self-determination of people of color, honor their leadership and are accountable to people of color-led organizations."
- Seattle Neighborhood Action Coalitions: Find your neighborhood group here.
- Concerned Humans Against Poverty aims to combat the poverty that plagues our Homeless and Low-Income neighbors.
- Clark County Democrats: the Clark County chapter to the Washington State Democrats.
- YWCA Clark County: We serve over 12,000 community members annually with outreach, prevention and education related to sexual assault, domestic violence, homelessness, early childhood education and foster care.
- LULAC Vancouver: LULAC Council 47013 advances the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, health, housing and civil rights of the Latino population of Vancouver and the surrounding area.
- Black Lives Matter Vancouver, WA: The Vancouver chapter of BLM.