How Washington State’s Voter Guide Became a 110-Year Tradition

In the heart of the Pacific Northwest, Washington state boasts a democratic tradition that has stood the test of time: the voter guide. For over a century, these pamphlets have been a beacon of information, guiding voters through elections, candidates, and ballot measures. Let’s delve into the fascinating history of this essential document.

Origins and Purpose

The Birth of the Voter Guide: In 1912, as part of a constitutional amendment establishing Washington’s referenda and initiative process, voters approved the creation of an accompanying pamphlet. This booklet would explain the measures appearing on the ballot, providing arguments for and against each proposal.

Voting booth

The First Edition: In 1914, the inaugural voter guide emerged, spanning 63 pages. It covered topics like banning liquor, employing prisoners on highway projects, and requiring businesses to pay medical bills for workers in “extra-hazardous” jobs.

Evolution Over the Years

Design Diversity: Over the decades, various versions of the guide have graced kitchen tables across the state. Some feature student-designed covers adorned with American flags, bald eagles, and the Statue of Liberty. Notably, the 1991 edition celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Bill of Rights.

Content Essentials: State law mandates that the guides include statements from candidates in federal, statewide, and local races, along with their photos and contact information. Arguments for and against ballot measures, crucial deadlines, and instructions on returning ballots are also part of the package.

The Green Seal of Trust

The most recent voter guide, with its green design and the state seal, continues the tradition. Whether it’s a primary, general election, or local race, these pamphlets remain a vital resource for informed voting.


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