Getting out the vote

The Primary Election is coming Tuesday, Sept. 14, and you know what that means: VOTE!

The General Election is coming Nov. 2, and you know what that means:VOTE!

I don't care if you're Democrat, Republican, Libertarian or Space Alien, please vote!

The opportunity to vote is a right in our country - and a privilege in many parts of the world.

More importantly, where do you get off complaining if you didn't vote?

"No matter which end of the political spectrum you're on," the folks at Fremont Place Book Co. say, "at least you can be participating."

New owner Henry Burton supports your right to vote alongside the distinctly opinionated stickers hung in his window.

Ann Swearingen, the manager of this, Fremont's longest-operating and fiercely independent bookstore, incorporated voter-registration forms into the window display at the end of June. She estimates she has distributed a couple dozen to passers-by ever since, regardless of their political bent.

In August, a trend appeared in Fremont-area businesses: Red, white and blue signs proclaiming "Register to vote here" shined out from a dozen business windows.

Touchstone Bakery, Fremont News and Puget Sound Reprographics have signs up and forms within available to anyone.

Michael Schultheis, a Seattle artist, feels a dissatisfaction with the system, and he took positive steps to address it with a "totally grassroots" effort to circulate registration materials throughout Seattle.

"It's such an easy way for the person who is frustrated with what is going on to do something. Store owners love the idea," Michael told me. "People see the sign and go in and shop. It's brilliant!"

He admits it's "blowing us away at how well it's working."

Operation Espresso, or Operation Hair Salon? Operation Hardware Store? Michael began by considering what type of business they would target as registration sites.

"It totally exploded," he said. "We started getting called from all over the city."

Caffee Ladro, Rudy's Barbershop and PCC Natural Markets here in Fremont all eagerly joined the crowd.

I spoke with Sarah Singer, one of the volunteers who placed forms at barbershops, coffee shops and art galleries in Fremont and Pioneer Square.

"Every place I've put them has run out," she proclaimed. "It's taken off like wildfire!"

Her form and sign installations at Roxy's Deli, Sonic Boom, Longshore-man's Daughter and e.t.g. don't come through an organized political party ploy, but a loose volunteer effort at passive voter registration. Everyone I talked to spoke of a simple desire to make voter registration forms convenient.

Ann at the Fremont Place Book Co. told me "people are relieved to find them" because they just moved here, haven't had time to 'go downtown' or have friends who need to register.

Registration to vote in the Primary closed on Aug. 30, but Henry at the bookstore admits that they'll keep the forms around until the general election, and possibly beyond. He joked that it depends on who wins, but admits it's a convenient way to help the process.

Business owners cannot say for sure how many voters this may add to the rolls. Registrants usually mail their forms off-premises.

Sarah has distributed hundreds of forms - and believes at least 50 volunteers have done the same around our city.

Michael hopes this effort creates a whole new breed of individual activists. People pick up forms for friends or people they know who have yet to register and intend to badger into voting.

If you want to join the trend, either to register voters in your business or register to vote yourself (the deadline for the General Election is Oct. 2), you can call King County voter registration, at 296-VOTE.

And, please, vote.

Kirby Lindsay registered to vote at age 18 and dutifully hikes uphill to the Fremont Community Church to vote - even if only for the least idiotic of the choices. She welcomes your comments at

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