Where CWU students vote could impact local election results

David Snyder

David Snyder, Senior Reporter

Earlier this week, CNW asked students how they felt about the candidates on their county ballots. Of those who already voted, most either admitted not knowing much about the candidates or not remembering what county they voted in.

According to Kittitas County Auditor Jerry Pettit, voter turnout in Kittitas County is on track to be over 90-percent for this fall’s general election. However, that turnout might come without votes from many of the CWU students living in the county.

Precinct 25 (Or Ellensburg 18) is one of 62 electoral divisions in Kittitas County. It covers CWU’s campus, along with its student housing buildings. According to data from votewashington.info, Precinct 25 ranks lowest in the county for voter turnout so far.

This was also the case for the 2016 general election, where 66.5-percent of the precinct’s population turned out. 

Pettit said the data doesn’t represent low voting participation on behalf of students, but instead it shows how most students are voting in different counties. 

“The majority of what we are talking about has to do with population versus where [students] are registered,” Pettit said. “When we go into the ballot dropbox at the SURC, it’s rainbow ballots because there are ballots from every county in the state.”

According to Pettit, if all CWU students living in Kittitas County voted locally, the impact on the results could be significant.

“They could potentially sway any [local] election depending on how they voted,” Pettit said.

There are five contestested positions on the Kittitas County ballot: Sheriff, PUD Commissioner, Legislative District 13 Representative, and both District 1 and 2 County Commissioners seats. 

The League of Women Voters of Kittitas County hosted a candidate forum for each of these races back in early October. 

League member Charli Sorenson said local positions like these have the most impact on students, because they concern things like law enforcement, taxes, utility costs, transportation and community health.

“If you want to drive the narrative, your cohort has to actually start voting,” Sorenson said. “So, if you let your grandparents choose your music and your clothes, sure, hang back, don’t vote — they would be happy to drive the narrative for you.”

Sorenson said based on sheer population numbers, a student’s vote in Kittitas County has more impact in a local election than in a place like King County. 

“In King County, you’re one of how many million voters? Here, you’re one of 48,000.” 

Pettit believes the value of a student’s vote comes from where they want their voice heard. 

“Your vote is your voice in an election process,” Pettit said.

Where to Vote

The online voter registration deadline passed on October 26, but for students who still want to vote, there are a couple in-person opportunities in Kittitas County.

In Ellensburg, students can go to either the county courthouse (during its operating hours at 205 W 5th Ave) or the Student Engagement Hub at the SURC Ballroom. The Engagement Hub will be operating Monday, November 2 between noon and 8:00p.m. and Tuesday, November 3 (Election day), from 8:00a.m. to 8:00p.m. — when voting closes.

At these locations, students can get assistance registering or changing their primary address so they can vote in Kittitas County or elsewhere.

In-person voting will also be available on election night at the Putnam Centennial Center (Senior Center) in Cle Elum (E 3rd Street) from noon to 8:00p.m.

For information on the local candidates participating in the 2020 General Election, visit The League of Women Voters of Kittitas County’s election guide: