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The direction of our country, state and local communities is set by voters. Casting a ballot may seem like a simple act, but information aimed at voters trying to make intelligent choices can be confusing.

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The Right To Vote!

Original voting requirements of the 13 states:


  • 21 years of age
  • White
  • Property owner
  • In some states, Protestant

New Hampshire eliminates the property requirement.


It takes more than 65 years for all states to remove the requirement that a voter own property.

The property requirement is eliminated in all states.


The 14th Amendment passes.


It grants citizenship and the right to vote to former male slaves.

Southern states, however, begin implementing voting taxes and literacy tests to keep African American men from voting. When those tactics don't work, they use intimidation and violence to suppress the black vote.

People of Chinese ancestry are barred from voting.


Congress passes laws barring people of Chinese ancestry from voting.

Native Americans are given the right to vote with restrictions.


The Supreme Court rules Native American men can vote, if they give up their tribal affiliation.

Congress later says they will have to apply for citizenship.

First state gives women the right to vote.


Wyoming becomes the first state with a constitution that gives women the right to vote.

The 19th Amendment passes.


All women are given the right to vote.

The U.S. Supreme Court rules immigrants from Japan can't become citizens and vote.


Those from India are similarly barred in 1923.

All Native Americans are given the right to vote.


All Asian Americans are given the right to vote.


Poll taxes are outlawed.


Voting Rights Act passes.


The 1965 Voting Rights Act bars states from imposing restrictions on who could vote.

The 26th Amendment passes.


In the midst of the Vietnam War and the draft, the 26th Amendment lowers the voting age to 18.

When are elections held


Like the federal government, Washington's state government has three branches.


The executive branch is led by the governor and includes agencies led by the governor or leaders elected separately, including the commissioner of public lands.


The Legislature is made up of the House and the Senate.


The judicial branch includes the Supreme and appellate courts. Unlike the executive branch, judges in Washington are elected, not appointed.

Even Year Elections

County Offices

Most counties in Washington hold elections for county officers in even years to four-year terms.

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Most counties have commissions that act as the legislative as well as executive branch of the government. The numbers of commissioners varies from three to nine, depending on decisions made in each county. Four counties, King, Whatcom, Snohomish and Pierce, have a separately elected county executive.


Determines the cause of death under numerous circumstances, including when people in apparent good health die without being in medical care within the 36 hours before their death, when the cause of death appears suspicious and when the person died in jail or prison. Some counties have moved away from having an elected coroner and instead hire a professional medical examiner. The duties of the coroner in counties with populations of 40,000 or less are handled by the county prosecutor.


The auditor has many duties, including overseeing elections; maintaining county records, including property records; and issuing marriage licenses. In most counties, auditors are in charge of the accounting system for their counties.


Acts as the financial and records officer of each county’s superior court.


Places values on property so property owners pay a fair share of property taxes.


The county prosecuting attorney represents the government in court when someone is accused of a crime. The prosecutor also defends the county when it is sued.


Serves as the chief law enforcement officer in the county and "conservator of the peace."


Acts as the chief banker for the county and some other local governments, including fire and water districts. Collects various taxes on behalf of county and other local governments.

State Offices

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Runs the executive branch of the state government. Hires and supervises about 40 state agency directors, including agencies that run state prisons, issue licenses, provide health care and social services and protect the environment. Writes the first draft of the state budget. Has the power to veto bills or parts of bills including the state budget bill.

Lt. governor

Presides over sessions of the state Senate. Casts tie-breaking votes. Takes over the duties of the governor when the governor is out of the state or if the governor leaves office before his or her term is up.

Secretary of state

Supervises elections. Publishes state voters guide. Maintains state archives. Registers corporations. Implements the state’s record management laws. Would take over governor’s duties if governor’s and lieutenant governor’s offices were vacated.


Manages the state’s money and debts.


Charged with ensuring that state and local governments follow rules on the spending of public money.

Attorney general

Acts as the legal adviser for state officers. Defends state laws challenged in courts.

Commissioner of public lands

Oversees millions of acres of state-owned land, most of it forestland that can produce timber the state can sell.

Insurance commissioner

Makes sure insurance companies treat customers fairly and follow regulations. Establishes and oversees implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Superintendent of public instruction

Handles the state’s responsibilities for public schools. It is the only nonpartisan executive office that is elected statewide.

State Legislature

Washington has 49 legislative districts. Each district has two representatives and one senator.

State senator

Senators serve four-year terms.

State representative

Representatives serve two-year terms.

State Supreme Court

Justices are elected to six-year terms.

Court of Appeals

Judges are elected to six-year terms.

Superior Court

Superior Courts generally handle felony cases. Judges are elected to four-year terms.

District Court

District Courts generally handle misdemeanor cases. Judges are elected to four-year terms.

Odd Year Elections

City Offices

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Duties of mayors can vary significantly. While all mayors serve in elected office, some mayors may be elected a city council member and then elevated to mayor by a vote of the city council. Strong mayors are elected directly by the people and are a separate branch of the government, overseeing the administration of the city. They also have veto power over the council. Some mayors act more as the leader of the city council and may be voted to the position by the people or appointed by the rest of the council after winning a city council seat.

City council

City councils control the finances, taxes and policies of a city.

Local District Offices

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School board

School boards control the finances and policies of school districts. Most school board members serve four-year terms. Some board members in larger districts serve six-year terms.

Fire commissioners

Fire districts are the fire departments serving rural areas and other areas outside cities. They may also contract to provide service within cities when those cities don't have fire departments of their own. Fire commissioners serve six-year terms.

Other commissioners

There are many other kinds of local governments that may serve where you live, including water districts, cemetery districts and park districts. Those local governments that control spending and policies have elected boards.

Washington women voted before 19th Amendment

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