Join our Discord!


Seattle WA
For Candidates

How to Run for Office as an Independent in Washington State

3 min read
Alex Furlin · Sep 13, 2023

When it comes to partisan politics, it shouldn’t come as a shock to learn that in the state of Washington (yes, the state, not D.C.), a bigger proportion of the electorate than ever – as much as 23% in the latest polling – report no particular lean towards either the Democratic or Republican parties. This means that the opportunities for independent candidates to have their voices heard in state elections has never been greater – or more necessary to uphold actual representative democracy. But the question remains: how do you even run for office in Washington State as a non-partisan independent candidate? 

The process for getting on the ballot in Washington State elections as an independent candidate isn’t as difficult or complex as you might think – that’s what we're here for. In this article, we’ll guide you through the candidate requirements, campaign finance laws, Washington election deadlines, grassroots mobilization, and fundraising compliance needed to successfully mount an independent campaign within the Washington State political party landscape. 

Let’s lay it all out in a step-by-step guide for how to run for office as an independent in Washington State: 

Candidate Eligibility In Washington

The first step to running for any individual office in Washington – and depending on which race in which you’re running, there will be slight differences in requirements and deadlines – is to first make sure you’re a registered voter in the state of Washington. If you aren’t registered to vote, or simply aren’t sure, head over to this helpful link from the Washington State Department of Licensing to ensure you’re registered to vote. 

Note: you must be registered to vote in the specific geographic area that you’re running for. So, for a State Senator, you must simply live in Washington. But for a city council race in Seattle, make sure you’re registered to vote in the specific area of Seattle you’re running in. This might seem intuitive, but it bears worth repeating so that anyone wanting to run as an independent doesn’t accidentally overlook this step. 

Beyond living and being registered to vote in the jurisdiction you’re running within, the only major qualification that prospective candidates must meet is that they are not a convicted felon. The full list of mandatory requirements is brief, but important:

  • Must be a citizen of the U.S.

  • Must be a legal resident of Washington State

  • Must be at least 18 years old by Election Day

  • Not disqualified from voting due to a court order

If you’ve met these basic requirements, congratulations! You’re officially eligible to become an independent candidate for office in the state of Washington. 


Ever thought about running for office?

Book a free meeting about launching your campaign
Frame 16

Steps To Run For Office In Washington

Once you’ve squared away your voter registration, the next step is to officially file a Declaration of Candidacy. If the office you’re running for is federal, statewide, or is a legislative, court of appeals, or superior court office that includes more than one county, you must file your Declaration of Candidacy with the Office of the Secretary of State. For all other offices, you must file your declaration with the County Elections Office. 

This process is the same whether you’re running as an independent or if you’re running for a party primary. If you want to mount a write-in candidacy (which, we must repeat, is quite different from running an independent campaign with ballot access), there’s a separate Declaration Of Write-In Candidacy to file. 

Once you’ve completed your Declaration of Candidacy by the stated deadline – the five day filing period begins Monday two weeks prior to Memorial Day, and all candidates must file no later than the Friday of that week – make sure to file it online. If you must file via mail or in-person drop off, make sure to follow the instructions on page 3 of the Washington State Guide to Ballot And General Election Voters’ Pamphlet. 

Alongside your Declaration of Candidacy, you must also submit a filing fee. For any offices that pay less than $1,000 annually (there aren’t really too many of these), the fee to attach is $10. For any office that pays over $1,000 annually (the vast majority), the filing fee will amount to 1% of the office’s yearly salary. 

With your Declaration submitted and filing fee paid, you can officially move on to filing for the specific office you’re running for! Woo! That filing link can be found here. The State of Washington provides an enormously helpful, step-by-step brochure featuring screenshots of exactly where to navigate and what to fill out online in order to file for the office you’ve chosen to run for. 

Voters’ Pamphlet Profile

Washington State employs a unique system called the Voters’ Pamphlet Profile as a way for prospective candidates to increase voter engagement. Each candidate running for office must fill out a 4-step Voters’ Pamphlet (page 15 of this PDF), which includes a photograph of themselves, a brief 4-section biography and written candidate statement. Each prospective candidate, once successfully filed with the state (and having paid the filing fee), will receive a candidate email address to use during the campaign. It’s at this email address that the link to the Voters’ Pamphlet will be sent to be filled out and submitted by the candidate. 

Depending on which office you’re running for, the Candidate Statement section of your Voters’ Pamphlet will have different maximum lengths. Nothing too crazy, but keep these in mind: if you’re running for Governor, U.S. Senator, or U.S. Representative, your statement is 300 words max. For all other state offices except State Representative, your max is 200 words. Those running for State Representative are capped out at a 100 word statement. 

Once you’ve submitted your completed Voters’ Pamphlet Profile, congratulations! You’re officially set to run for office as an independent in Washington. Now the actual joys of campaigning, fundraising, voter outreach strategies and team building can actually begin!

Let’s get into it. 

Financial Reporting Requirements

New candidates for any office, whether independent or going through the party primary system, must file several financial disclosure forms. 

First, as a candidate, make sure your campaign is registered with the Public Disclosure Commission. Doing so is absolutely critical, as 10 days before the election, the financial records of all campaigns in Washington State are subject to public inspection. In registering with the PDC, candidates can choose between one of two reporting options: Mini-reporting or Full reporting. Mini-reporting is the option for campaigns that expect to raise and spend $7,000 or less during the duration of the campaign. Full reporting is the option all campaigns must adhere to if they expect to raise and spend any amount over $7,000 total. 

Within two weeks of declaring your candidacy and officially becoming an independent candidate for office, you must also fill out a Personal Financial Disclosure form. Make completing these disclosure forms an absolute priority! Nobody gets into politics for the paperwork, but without the paperwork filed away properly, none of the actual campaign team building, connecting with constituents and voter engagement can even begin. 

Closing Thoughts

Running for office in Washington State at any level of public service isn’t easy – but it’s absolutely worth it, as now more than ever, people are clamoring for independent voices to represent them at any and all levels of government. This post isn’t a “How To” on winning any given race, because the specifics and window of victory will differ greatly for each individual election and each individual candidate. There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to winning public office. 

What Good Party is committed to doing is demystifying the process for running as an independent – clarifying that yes, though there are hardcore requirements you must meet as a declared independent, this stuff is not impossible or hidden knowledge. Good Party is committed to providing campaigning tools for independents (and third party candidates)  who do declare to run for office in Washington State – and elsewhere, across the nation – so that the uphill climb towards serving in public life as a non-partisan independent doesn’t have to be so steep in comparison to running under the banner of a major political party. 

Not only is it feasible and possible to win election at any level of government in Washington as an independent, it’s more important than ever before to give the Washington electorate legitimately different choices for their public leaders. All it takes is one independent victory to demonstrate to others that it actually is possible to represent and influence government independently of the chokehold the two major parties have on our government and political system. And at a time when public faith in either of the two major parties are hitting historic lows, the time is ripe as ever for independent challengers to declare their candidacies, check off all necessary requirements for securing ballot access, and fight to represent their constituents from a people-first perspective outside of the two-party duopoly. 

If you’re interested in running for office as an independent candidate, book a meeting with Good Party and get access to our free campaign tools for independent campaigns. 

Photo Credit: Erin Hervey


Ever thought about running for office?

Book a free meeting about launching your campaign
Frame 16


Independent Candidates
How to Run for Office
By Alex Furlin
Alex Furlin is a freelance writer for Good Party.