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caption: A protester is shown kneeling through a window with the word 'vote' written on the glass, in front of hundreds of other protesters at the intersection of 11th Avenue and East Pine Street on the 10th day of protests following the police killing of George Floyd on Sunday June 7, 2020, in Seattle.
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A protester is shown kneeling through a window with the word 'vote' written on the glass, in front of hundreds of other protesters at the intersection of 11th Avenue and East Pine Street on the 10th day of protests following the police killing of George Floyd on Sunday June 7, 2020, in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

What do Seattle voters want out of the election next week? 'I’m not sure voters themselves know'

It’s showtime for Seattle's 2021 primary election on August 3.

"I have been out talking to voters, and if you ask people their number one issue, almost everyone says the same thing: homelessness," says KUOW politics reporter David Hyde. "But I think it’s much less clear exactly what people want the city to do about it. I’m not sure voters themselves know."

Most people will vote this weekend or at least by Monday. Be sure to have ballots postmarked by 8 p.m. Tuesday. And check out KUOW's election coverage so far to get caught up.

Events over this past week may stick out and influence voters as they fill out their ballots. The week began with a series of unrelated, deadly shootings — a local indicator of a nationwide jump in gun violence this year.

Political analyst and contributing columnist Joni Balter says homelessness is linked to public safety for a lot of people. The shootings could impact a voter's perspective on the city's homeless response, too.

In fact, Politico this week wrote that public safety is becoming a dominant issue in mayoral races around the country, including and especially in Seattle.

"I've got to give it up for Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat, who wrote this week that our current City Council has to accept some responsibility for the defund efforts last year," Balter says. "Why? Because Defund contributed to some of roughly 270 officers leaving the force."

Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz says his department doesn’t have numbers to deal with the uptick in violence.

But back to homelessness: The Compassion Seattle charter amendment qualified for the November ballot. Voters will have to make up their minds about this proposal and consider what a candidate's support — or lack thereof — means elsewhere on the ballot.

"It forces office-seekers to state a position on a complicated issue," Balter says. "There is a big difference, for example, between a person who doesn’t want any homeless people on the street because it makes them uncomfortable, and a family in, say, Ballard reluctant to use the seasonal public spray park because the homeless have moved in."

Hyde says it's going to depend a lot of how people view the proposal in the context of their own level of progressiveness.

Critics have called Compassion Seattle an excuse to legalize sweeps and have called it an unfunded mandate — things progressives may not be willing to buy into even as the city's struggles find a solution, any solution to the homelessness crisis.

"And there is a long time between now and the General Election," Hyde points out. "So it really all depends on how voters see this proposed charter amendment by November. Does it jive with how they seem themselves? Or contrast?"