In 2021, elections are everywhere in Washington state

We kick off this year's Crosscut Elections newsletter with a reader's question about where elections are taking place.

A father and his daughter walk by a ballot drop box

A ballot drop box at Beacon Hill Library on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020, in Seattle, Wash. (Jovelle Tamayo for Crosscut)

A reader asked a great question this week that really helps explain why Crosscut is making more of an effort this year to involve the community in our election coverage. 

Colleen wanted to know if the August primary election is only for Seattle, or are there races all over the region? I loved this question for two reasons. First, it was a good reminder that we have readers from all over Washington (only about half of Crosscut readers live in the Seattle area). Second, her curiosity about local elections shows she understands how important these races can be.

While most of us tend to pay a lot more attention to presidential elections, the voter decisions that have a greater potential for changing our lives happen every year in our own communities. For example, Poulsbo voters will be choosing a mayor and three city council members this year. They’ll also be voting for school board members, fire commissioners, port commissioners and people to represent them on the parks commission.

The people elected have a lot of power and influence. They can raise Colleen’s taxes, open or close a park near her home, decide how to support people worried about the economic fallout of the pandemic, establish new rules for local schools, hire or fire the superintendent of her school district and spend taxpayer dollars on improvements to the Port of Poulsbo.

No, Crosscut won’t likely be covering Poulsbo elections. But we do want to help our readers keep track of their own political lives through the resources we offer in this newsletter and on In addition to reading and sharing this information with your friends and family, you can help shape our elections coverage by answering a brief survey about your political priorities. And please keep asking questions by sending them to us via Northwest Wonders or replying to this email. I’ll do my best to answer in future issues of our weekly Crosscut Elections newsletter.

For those wondering who will appear on their August primary ballot, the best place to see what races will be on the ballot in your county or your city, and who is running, is the secretary of state’s website. You can search by county for city and county races. You can see what initiatives are gathering signatures to secure a place on the ballot. This search tool from the state is another way to look for people running for office. You can also go to your county elections office to learn who is running. Here’s the King County site, and this page links to county election sites around the state.

One thing you may wonder about after checking these election sites: Where are the names of people running for the state Legislature? There are zero legislative races in Washington this year. Legislative elections usually happen in even years, like 2020 or 2022, but in most odd years there are candidates running in special elections because someone retired or left their office for another reason. Fun fact: 2021 is the first year since 1991 without any legislative races on Washington ballots, according to Phil Gardner, chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Denny Heck.

This story was first published in Crosscut's Elections newsletter. Join us as we navigate the 2021 election season by signing up for the newsletter, below.

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