Civic Engagement Research on Immigrants

Seattle Votes

We worked with Latino Decisions to develop and launch the Seattle Votes Survey campaign, which anonymously collected civic engagement data from 5,566 immigrant and refugee residents, the first such data for any city in the U.S. and one of the largest data sets in the country. The reports and links to data are below:

Report on the entire dataset:
Seattle Votes Survey Results: Immigrant Civic Engagement in Seattle-King County

Reports disaggregated by immigrant/refugee community subsets:
Seattle Votes Survey Results: Asian American Community

Seattle Votes Survey Results: East African Community

Seattle Votes Survey Results: Latino Community 
NOTE: As of June 4, 2018, the Latino Community report is revised from the original version. Tania Hino's interview contained incorrect information in the original report.

Seattle Votes Slideshow Presentation:
OIRA Presentation Seattle Votes 2018 FINAL.pdf

(To download any of the above documents, right-click, then select, "Save link as..." and then save to your computer.)

Seattle Votes Survey raw data:


Jump to a section to learn more about the Seattle Votes Survey campaign:

Seattle Votes Survey Project FAQ

Seattle Votes Partner Organizations

2015 Immigrant Voting Task Force Report


Seattle Votes Survey Campaign

Immigrants and refugees gathered on the outside steps of a state building in Olympia holding a number of white signs with black lettering. The signs contain a number of pro-immigrant and pro-refugee messages.

The Seattle Votes Survey campaign was 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 shared with us their habits related to voting and civic engagement. The findings are informing policies to improve naturalization rates, voter registration numbers, and voting rates.


1. Why did we do 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 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 leaders appointed by Mayor Ed Murray and Mayor Mike McGinn. The Immigrant Voting Rights Task Force report is available below.

2. What was the Seattle Votes Survey?

The Seattle Votes Survey was a research tool to help us understand barriers to civic engagement (naturalization, voter registration, and voting) for immigrant and refugee residents. We took great steps to ensure that survey responses could not be traced back to an individual. It took an average of 10 minutes to complete the survey.

The survey was available in English, Spanish, Chinese (Traditional), Vietnamese, Korean, Somali, Amharic, Oromo, Tigrinya, and Arabic. Thanks to community support, we were also able to generate additional paper surveys in Filipino/Tagalog, Indonesian, and Khmer/Cambodian.

A screenshot of the print color version of the Seattle Votes Survey.

The print-versions of the surveys were for downloading, printing, and filling out with a pen/pencil. (Right-click, then select, "Save link as..." and save to your computer.)
PLEASE NOTE: the surveys below print on legal sized paper (8.5" x 14").

A close-up of a hand holding a black pen filling out an empty circle in a ballot that has Chinese text.

3. Who was the intended audience of the survey?

The survey was intended for voting-age immigrant and refugee residents of Seattle-King County. Survey-takers must have been born outside of the United States AND be at least 18 years of age. If individuals were born in the United States OR were younger than 18 years of age, they should not have filled out the survey.

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

We lacked quality data on numerous issues. We wanted to know the following:

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

5. Why did organizations support Seattle Votes?

Immigrant and refugee residents are a growing and increasingly influential population. But, our civic engagement rates lag behind other groups. As a result, we are not part of decisions that affect our livelihood and our families. With so much at stake in every election - 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 miling resident of color with long hair at a counter talking to a customer service representative in the process of registering to vote.

6. How did partner organizations and individuals help Seattle Votes?

Organizations and individuals helped to distribute the surveys to community members and constituents. You can learn more at the Seattle Votes Partner Toolkit here.

7. Was funding available for organizations to do outreach?

We had a very limited budget for Seattle Votes and were unable to sponsor or compensate organizations to participate in Seattle Votes. This project was built on our simple mission: to improve the lives of Seattle's immigrant and refugee residents.

8. What partner organizations and media partners helped with the Seattle Votes campaign?

Seattle Votes Partner Organizations

21 Progress
ACLU of Washington
Administration of Children and Families
Al Karim Islamic Center
API Chaya
Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS)
BAYAN Pacific Northwest
Casa Latina
Catholic Community Services of Western Washington
Caya Dargado Oromo Seattle
Change Counts! - Financial Empowerment Network│Seattle-King County
Chinese American Citizens Alliance
Chinese Information and Service Center (CISC)
Chinese Meet Seattle
City of Seattle Immigrant and Refugee Commission
Coalition of Immigrants Refugees and Communities of Color (CIRCC)
Communities in Schools
Consular Association of Washington
Downtown Muslim Association of Seattle
Downtown Public Health Center
East African Community Services
Eco8 Community Builders
El Centro de la Raza
Entre Hermanos
Eritrean Association of Greater Seattle
Ethiopian Community Center
Ethnic Heritage Council
FACES (Filipino Americans Civic Employees of Seattle)
Faith Action Network
Families of Color Seattle
Filipino American Greater Seattle Seventh-day Adventist Church
Filipino Community of Seattle (FCS)
Goodwill Bellevue
Goodwill Burien
Goodwill Seattle
Goodwill Shoreline
Healthy King County Coalition
Highline Community College
HOLA (Hispanic or Latino Affinity)
Horn of Africa Services
India Association of Western Washington
International Community Health Services (ICHS)
International Drop-In Center (IDIC)
Iraqi Community Center of Washington
Iterlm CDA
Japanese American Citizens League - Seattle Chapter
Japanese Cultural Community Center of Washington Seattle
Jewish Family Service of Seattle
Justice for Women, Intercommunity Peace & Justice Center
King County Housing Authority
King County Immigrant and Refugee Task Force
King County Library System
Korean American Bar Association of Washington

Korean American Coalition of Washington
Latino City Employees
Latino Community Development Fund
Literary Source
Low Income Housing Institute
Lutheran Community Services Northwest
Mexican Consulate in Seattle
Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI)
Muslim Community Resource Center
Muslim Housing Services
National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) Seattle
NEA Center for Organizing
Neighborhood House
OCA Asian Pacific American Advocates
Office of Arts and Culture
Office of Intergovernmental Relations
Oromo Community of Seattle
Puget Sound Training Center
Rajana Society
Renton Technical College
Refugee Women's Alliance (ReWA)
Residence Inn Seattle Downtown/Lake Union
Sea Mar Community Health Centers
Seattle Central College
Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda)
Seattle CityClub
Seattle Counseling Services Immigrant Outreach Project
Seattle Education Association
Seattle Housing Authority
Seattle Public Library Civic Engagement Committee
Seattle University College of Arts and Sciences Nonprofit Leadership Program
Seattle University International Student Center
SEIU 775
SEIU Local 6
Simposio de Mujeres Latinas
Somali Community Services of Seattle
Somali Health Board
St. James Immigrant Assistance
St. Pius X Catholic Church
The Greater Seattle Chinese Chamber of Commerce
Tongan Wesleyan Church of America
TRAC Associates
Ukrainian Community Center of Washington
Unite Here! Local 8
University of Washington
Voices of Tomorrow
Washington Bus
Washington Chinese Arts & Culture Committee
White Center Community Development Association
Win/Win Network
Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience


Seattle Votes Partner Media Outlets

Actitud Latina
Crossings TV
El Mundo
Immigration Matters
International Examiner
Korea Daily
La Raza Noroeste

Northwest Vietnamese News
Seattle Chinese Times
Seattle Viet Times
The Voice
Univision Seattle


Young Somali women inside a state capitol building wearing hijabs and looking down at their phones.


2015 Immigrant Voting Task Force Report

The City of Seattle Immigrant Voting Task Force Report was released in 2015.

This report looked 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 is highlighted in the creative and practical recommendations developed by the Immigrant Voting Task Force (see report for more details).

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.

A screenshot of the cover of the red, white, and blue print version of the Immigrant Voting Task Force Report.


Banner photo credit: Alabastro Photography.

Immigrant and Refugee Affairs

Hamdi Mohamed, Director
Address: 700 5th Ave, Suite 1616, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 94573, Seattle, WA, 98124
Phone: (206) 727-8515

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The mission of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs is to improve the lives of Seattle’s immigrant and refugee communities by engaging them in decisions about the City of Seattle’s future and improving the City’s programs and services to meet the needs of all constituents.