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Treasures of the Archives: A 100-Year-Old Voters’ Guide

This Voters’ Pamphlet from 1916 finds Washingtonians voting on some very familiar issues. Publications, State Government Agencies, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives.

This Voters’ Pamphlet from 1916 finds Washingtonians voting on some very familiar issues. Publications, State Government Agencies, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov.

Everyone have their ballots? Items like this 1916 pamphlet are a reminder that voters in Washington have been shaping state policies for more than a century. 100 years ago this November, Senator Mike Poindexter was elected. The 17th Amendment, allowing the direct election of Senators, had been passed only a few years before, so this was, only the second time Washington citizens had directly elected a senator.

Booze was on the ballot as well. Voters rejected a law that would have allowed beer under 4% alcohol. The same voters had just prohibited most alcohol two years earlier, and didn’t want to weaken the law. A small number of absentee voters were eligible to vote by mail in 1916, but most went to the polls in person.

Labor conflicts were a hot issue. Measure #6 would have set penalties for "picketing," which it defined as “calling attention to….any controversy, disagreement or dispute between any labor union or organization….and any person engaged in any lawful business….for the purpose of hindering or preventing such person from conducting his business.” An argument in favor promised that the law would “guarantee all workers the peaceful pursuit of their labor,” but voters weren’t having it: 68% voted against.

By a 2-to-1 margin, voters also defeated a proposal that would have subjected voters to “literacy tests,” which had been used elsewhere to keep African-American and foreign-born citizens from voting. Then as now, Washington was a melting pot of nationalities and ethnicities, and the battle for voting rights would be a long one.

The digital archives hold more than a century of publications from the Secretary of State's office, including voters’ guides. See what you can find in the collection.