Seattle Votes

When we officially started collecting Seattle Votes surveys back in March 2016, we had a goal of at least 5,000 completed surveys from immigrants and refugees in the Seattle-King County area. And we had a goal of at least 100 Seattle Votes Partners, organizations helping us by outreaching into communities to complete surveys. As you can see above, we surpassed both goals thanks to your help. 

We received responses from 5,566 immigrant and refugee residents on civic engagement, the first such data for any city in the U.S. and one of the largest data sets in the country.

Stay tuned, as we'll be officially releasing the data soon.


Click below to jump to each section:

Seattle Votes

Immigrant Voting Task Force



Seattle Votes

Immigrants and refugees in Olympia advocating.

Seattle Votes is a community outreach and engagement campaign to identify and better document the barriers to civic engagement for Seattle's immigrant and refugee residents. By partnering with hundreds of organizations, thousands of Seattle-King County immigrants and refugees will have a chance to tell us why they don't become citizens, register to vote, or vote. The findings will help inform policies to improve naturalization rates, voter registration numbers, and voting rates.


1. Why are we doing a survey?

Better information will result in better policies. In 2015, the Immigrant Voting Rights Task Force released a report with recommendations for city and regional governments. Both must now adopt policies to improve the naturalization, registration, and voting rates of immigrant and refugee residents. One of the recommendations was the need for better data about immigrant and refugee voters. The Task Force was comprised of immigrant and refugee civic leaders appointed by Mayor Ed Murray and Mayor Mike McGinn. Their report is available below.

2. What is the Seattle Votes survey?

The Seattle Votes Survey is a research tool to help us understand barriers to civic engagement (naturalization, voter registration, and voting) for immigrant and refugee residents. The survey responses are anonymous, meaning that the surveys cannot be traced back to an individual. This ensures the survey taker's privacy. It takes less than 10 minutes to complete the survey.

3. What languages is the survey available in?

The survey will be available in English, Spanish, Chinese (Traditional), Vietnamese, Korean, Somali, Amharic, Oromo, Tigrinya, and Arabic. You can find the pdf and online versions of the survey below.

Filling out a ballot in Chinese.

4. Who should fill out the survey?

Only voting-age immigrant and refugee residents of Seattle-King County should fill out the survey. This means you must be born outside of the United States AND be at least 18 years of age. If you were born in the United States OR you are younger than 18 years of age, you should not fill out the survey.

5. What data is helpful to improve immigrant and refugee resident civic engagement rates?

We lack quality data on this issue. For example, it would be helpful to know the following:

  • Language needs of eligible voters.
  • Literacy levels of eligible limited English-proficient voters.
  • Number of eligible limited English-proficient voters.
  • Turnout of limited English-proficient voters.
  • The use of ballot drop boxes in past and current locations.

6. Why is it important for my organization to support Seattle Votes?

Immigrant and refugee residents are a growing and increasingly influential population. But, our civic engagement rates lag behind other groups. When this happens, our voices are not as strong as they can be in elections and other activities. As a result, we are not part of decisions that affect our livelihood and our families. With so much at stake in the 2016 elections - jobs, education, immigration reform, and more - it's important for immigrant and refugee residents to become citizens, register to vote, and vote.

Also, the lack of immigrant and refugee voter data makes it difficult for city and elections leaders to understand what is needed to serve all Seattle residents. As members and supporters of immigrant and refugee communities, we have an opportunity to collect this data ourselves. A wise person once said:  "Data is knowledge, and knowledge is power." Possessing accurate data about our communities is powerful.

A resident getting ready to register to vote.

7. What can I do to help Seattle Votes?

If you are an immigrant or refugee and are at least 18 years old, you can help Seattle Votes by filling out a survey! After you fill it out, get your friends, family members, and colleagues who are also immigrants/refugees and are at least 18 years old to fill out the survey. You can also share the electronic version of the survey on social media, email, and text messages. You can find the survey below or call the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs at 206.727.8515 for a print copy.

8. What can my organization or I do to help Seattle Votes?

If you are a community or organizational leader, please partner with the Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. We would like to work with you and your organization to distribute the surveys to your members or constituents. Organizations that collect a minimum of 200 surveys have an option to receive a special report on the surveys collected by them. They will also be listed as a partner on our web page. Ask us for more details or download the Seattle Votes Partner Toolkit here.

9. Is funding available for my organization to do outreach?

We have a very limited budget for Seattle Votes and cannot sponsor or compensate organizations to participate in Seattle Votes. This project is built on our simple mission: to improve the lives of Seattle's immigrant and refugee residents. Please join us in this mission. Together, we can make a difference.


For more information about Seattle Votes 2016, contact Elsa Batres-Boni at or 206.727.8515.


Young Somali women at the state capitol.


2015 Immigrant Voting Task Force Report

We are excited to present the 2015 Immigrant Voting Task Force report. See the news release.

This report looks at the issues that affect civic and political participation by immigrant communities in the City of Seattle. The City is working to ensure that immigrant residents are part of our vibrant democracy and is using innovative and community-driven ideas to overcome challenges to civic participation. This inclusive approach - driven and supported by Mayor Edward B. Murray and the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs - is highlighted in the creative and practical recommendations developed by the Immigrant Voting Task Force.

We hope the report will be a catalyst for civic engagement and increased voter participation within immigrant communities. This report may also spark ideas for other jurisdictions across America to break down barriers for their new immigrant voters as well.

Immigrant Voting Task Force Report



2015 Immigrant Voting Task Force

  1. Arsalan Bukhari (CAIR-Washington State)
  2. Diane Butler (AILA - American Immigration Lawyers Association)
  3. Laura Flores Cantrell (Latino Community Fund)
  4. Luis Fraga (Associate Vice Provost, UW)
  5. Dana Laurent
  6. Sharon Maeda (21 Progress)
  7. Hamdi Mohamed
  8. David Perez
  9. Tania Santiago (DACA/Dreamer)
  10. Rich Stolz (One America)
  11. Manny Uch
  12. Heather Villanueva (SEIU 775)
  13. Dorothy Wong (CISC)
  14. Trang Tu


Arsalan Bukhari - Arsalan Bukhari is Executive Director of CAIR-Washington State, the local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights organization. Motivated by the growing prejudice against Muslims, Arsalan started as a volunteer with CAIR-WA with a resolve to establish a center for professional Muslim activism in Washington State. Prior to joining CAIR, Bukhari was Contract Administrator at the Boeing Company and an activist in the fields of interfaith collaboration, and community outreach. He holds a bachelor's degree in Business Finance from Seattle University.


Diane Butler - Diane Butler was raised on a farm in Wyoming and graduated with honors from the University of Wyoming in 1983. After working for a Congressman in Washington, DC, she spent time in Shanghai, China working for the Canadian law firm of Bull, Housser & Tupper. She went on to receive her law degree from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. in 1992 and now chairs the Immigration Law practice group at Lane Powell PC. Diane was named as a "leading individual" in Immigration Law by Chambers USA 2012: America's Leading Lawyers and a "Top Business Immigration Lawyer" in Seattle Business Monthly (2008).


Laura Flores Cantrell - Laura Flores Cantrell serves as the Executive Director of the Latino Community Fund of Washington, a statewide public charitable foundation. An attorney by training, she served as Assistant General Counsel for an energy development and marketing company in Bellevue, Washington prior to entering the nonprofit sector. Laura has worked in advocacy and public policy roles in the nonprofit sector for over 15 years. Her professional experience has focused on improving the well-being of underserved populations, including migrant and seasonal farmworkers, communities of color and at-risk children


Luis Fraga - Luis Ricardo Fraga is Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement, Russell F. Stark University Professor, Director of the Diversity Research Institute, and Professor of Political Science at the University of Washington. He has the responsibility for developing strategies and policies with the Provost, Vice Provosts, Deans, and Department Chairs to recruit, promote, and retain faculty at the UW. He has been on the faculty at Stanford University, the University of Notre Dame, and the University of Oklahoma. He is a native of Corpus Christi, Texas. He received his A.B., cum laude, from Harvard University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Rice University.


Dana Laurent - Dana has built power for social change all across the state in her current role as executive director of Win/Win. Win/Win is the strategic and organizing hub for over fifty different organizations in the social justice and labor community and is the backbone for collaborative civic engagement in Washington. Previously, Dana was the Political Director for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, where she led a tristate team and developed and implemented a wide variety of legislative, civic engagement and political strategies and campaigns on both the state and federal levels to advance women's health and rights.


Sharon Maeda - Sharon Maeda has been involved in electoral politics since she was 14 years old, campaigning for her neighbor who was in the Washington House of Representatives. Over the years, she has worked on many electoral campaigns and volunteered on numerous state, county and city commissions and advisory boards. She served in the Clinton Administration as Deputy Assistant Secretary of HUD and also worked at the White House. Sharon was the founding Executive Director of 21 Progress, a nonprofit committed to building a 21st Century movement for equity and justice.


Hamdi Mohamed - Hamdi Mohamed was born in the early 1990s in Mogadishu, Somalia and is the youngest of ten siblings. A year after Hamdi's birth her family fled Somalia due to a civil war that began in 1991. By the third grade, Hamdi and her family settled down in Seattle, Washington. Now, Hamdi Mohamed is a graduate of University of Washington with a bachelor's degree in Law, Societies, and Justice and minor in Near Eastern Studies and Civilization. In 2012, Hamdi did a summer internship for Care International in Somalia, researching and writing interest-stories on discrimination, harassment, and gender misconduct.


David Perez is a trial and appellate attorney at a law firm in Seattle. David has substantial experience briefing cases at all levels of state and federal government, including the U.S. Supreme Court, and has argued successfully in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Washington Court of Appeals. Each year since 2013, David has been named a "Rising Star" in Washington Law and Politics. David maintains a robust pro bono practice that focuses on issues related to civil rights, constitutional law and voting rights.


Tania Santiago - Tania Santiago graduated from the University of Washington in spring of 2015 with a degree in Sociology and Education. She is 22-years-old and the oldest in her family of four. Currently, she is a paralegal at Karol Brown, Attorney at Law, PLLC in the city of Bellevue. After graduation she aspires to earn her Master's in Teaching and J.D. from the University of Washington. Her dream is to become the Seattle School District Superintendent. She is actively involved in her community and school as a Co-founder for the Washington State Dream Act Coalition and an Ambassador for the Latino/a Educational Achievement Project (LEAP).


Rich Stolz - Rich Stolz is currently the Executive Director of OneAmerica. He was born in Seoul, South Korea. His parents met in Korea, when his father, an American citizen, worked there in the construction field. His mother became a naturalized citizen, and Rich's family moved to the United States when he was three. Throughout his life, he has been deeply influenced by the civil rights movement and liberation theology in the context of Catholic social teaching, including the centrality of faith, radical love, and human dignity. Together, these experiences affirmed his calling to social justice and human rights organizing and activism.


Many Uch - Many Uch is a Cambodian refugee and Seattle-based  activist.


Heather Villanueva - Heather Villanueva is the Community Strength Organizer at SEIU 775, the largest union in Washington. Villanueva focuses on advancing immigrant, refugee and LGBTQ rights, anti-poverty issues, racial equity and civic engagement. She currently coordinates the award-winning Racial Equity Team, a group of lobbyists working with legislators and community leaders towards racial justice in the Washington legislature. She also serves on the board of Ingersoll Gender Center, an organization serving the Puget Sound transgender community. Villanueva has served as the chair of the King County Civil Rights Commission and as a board member of the International Examiner.


Dorothy Wong - Dorothy Wong is presently the Executive Director of CISC (Chinese Information and Service Center). Dorothy hails from California, but is no stranger to Seattle. She served as a former Executive Director of the International Community Health Services from 1993 - 2005. Dorothy was also executive director of the Organization for Chinese Americans (OCA), Washington, DC in 2006. Her professional career has been with nonprofit organizations and government agencies that provide health care and social services.


Trang Tu is an independent consultant focusing on community and social justice work, with a background in community planning and development. Prior to consulting, Trang worked for a non-profit in the International District supporting neighborhood planning efforts, and for the City of Seattle, where she served as light rail station area planner in the Rainier Valley, and then as an Assistant for Housing and Community Development under former Mayor Paul Schell.


For information about past task force agendas and minutes please email,

Banner photo credit: Alabastro Photography.