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Election Administration in Washington

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Election Types and Dates

Election Dates

Upcoming Primary Elections

The presidential preference primary is May 24, 2016. The primary election for other offices is August 2, 2016.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Washington 2016 Elections Calendar [link]

Upcoming General Elections

The general election is November 8, 2016.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Washington 2016 Elections Calendar [link]

How is a nominee determined?

How is a nominee determined (caucus, primary, convention)?

In most elections, nominees are selected through a ""top-two"" primary election. In a top-two primary, all qualifying candidates regardless of their party affiliation are listed on the same primary ballot, and the two candidates who receive the most votes in the primary, regardless of their party affiliation, will advance to the general election.

An exception is the presidential primary election, which is held as a traditional primary.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.36.170 [link]

Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.52.112 [link]

Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.56.340 [link]

Political Party Affiliation

Can voters register by party in the state?

No.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.08.166 [link]

Must voters be registered with a political party if they would like to vote on that party’s candidates in a partisan primary election (i.e., are primaries open or closed)?

Most primary elections are open; voters do not have to be affiliated with a party to vote for that party's candidates in the top-two primary system.

However, for presidential primary elections, a party can require that voters declare in writing an affiliation with their party before the voter is allowed to vote that party's presidential primary ballot.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.36.170 [link]

Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.52.112 [link]

Wa. Admin. Code § 434-219-140 [link]

Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.56.340 [link]

When can a voter change or switch their party affiliation?

Voters do not register by political party in Washington. If required by a party, voters can declare affiliation with the party to vote in the party's presidential primary election at the time of the election.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.08.166 [link]

Wa. Admin. Code § 434-219-140 [link]

Voter Registration

Who Can Vote?

What are the state's residency requirements for voters?

To be eligible to vote in Washington, a person must have lived in the county and precinct in which they offer to vote for 30 days immediately preceding the election.

Persons who live at a nontraditional address, such as persons experiencing homelessness, may register to vote by describing on their voter registration application the location of where they live, such as a shelter, park, intersection, or other identifiable location they consider their home.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wash. Const. art. VI, § 1 [link]

Wash. Rev. Code. § 29A.08.010(2) [link]

King County Election Home [link]

Can someone pre-register to vote if they will not be 18 years old by the next election? If so, who?

No. A 17-year-old may register to vote if they will be 18 by the next election.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Admin. Code § [link]

Can 17-year-olds who will be 18-year-olds by the general election vote in the primary?

No.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Admin. Code § [link]

Does the state take away the right to vote from persons convicted of certain crimes? If so, what crimes?

A person convicted of a felony loses the right to vote while they are in prison and, for a felony conviction in a Washington state court only, while they are subject to community custody under the Department of Corrections.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.520 [link]

Wa. Admin. Code § 434-324-106 [link]

If people lose the right to vote because of a criminal conviction, can they regain the right to vote? How?

A person's right to vote can be either ""provisionally"" restored or ""permanently"" restored. A provisional restoration is automatically granted once a person is released from prison and, for persons convicted in a Washington state court only, once the person completes any term of community custody. Once the right to vote is provisionally restored, a person will be able to register and vote. However, the person's right to vote can be taken away again by a court if the person does not make three required legal financial payments during a twelve month period, and the person will regain the right to vote only upon the court's permission after the person makes a good faith attempt to make payments.

A person's right to vote may be permanently restored by one of the following for each felony conviction:

  • A certificate of discharge issued by the sentencing court
  • A court order restoring the right
  • A final order of discharge issued by the indeterminate sentence review board
  • A certificate of restoration issued by the governor
Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.520 [link]

Wa. Admin. Code § 434-324-106 [link]

Voter Registration Options

Is fully online voter registration available? (i.e., can voters fill in and submit an online application without printing and signing it?)

Yes, but only for people who have a valid Washington driver's license or state ID card. Click here to access the website.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.123 [link]

Does the state accept the National Mail Registration Form?

Yes. Click here to download the form.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

National Mail Voter Registration Form [link]

Is the state required to register voters at public assistance agencies and driver's license agencies, per the National Voter Registration Act of 1993?

Yes.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

U.S. Department of Justice website [link]

Student-Specific Rules

Does the state have specific rules on students registering to vote or voting?

Students may choose to register to vote at the address where they live while attending school or at a different address considered to be their home (such as their parent's address).

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Stat. § 29A.04.163 [link]

Wa. Sec. of State, Voters Away at College [link]

Voter Registration Deadlines

When is the voter registration deadline?

A person may register to vote in person at the county auditor's office no later than the 8th day before Election Day. But for voter registration applications submitted in other ways, such as by mail or online, the deadline is the 29th day before Election Day.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.140 [link]

How is the deadline enforced for mailed applications?

Postmark - an application must be postmarked by the deadline.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.020 [link]

Voter Registration Drives

Does the state require organizations conducting voter registration drives to register?

No.

Are there restrictions on getting voter registration forms?

No. The county auditor must keep a supply of voter registration forms in their office at all times for political parties and others interested in assisting in voter registration, and must make every effort to make these forms generally available to the public.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.08.260 [link]

Does the state require any training in order to conduct voter registration drives?

No.

Does the state have restrictions on who may help others register to vote?

No.

Source (confirmed on: 1904-01-01)

Wash. Sec. of State, Guide to Registering Voters, footnote 5 [link]

Does the state have restrictions on paying drive workers, or additional rules related to payment?

Yes. It is a class C felony to offer to pay or to accept payment for assisting in registering voters where payment is based on a fixed amount of money per voter registration. A class C felony is punishable by confinement in a state correctional institution for up to 5 years, a fine up to $10,000, or both. According to the Secretary of State, voter registration coordinators may not compensate or reward staff members or volunteers based on the number of voters they register, but organizations may pay or reward canvassers for time spent registering voters.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wash. Sec. of State, Guide to Registering Voters, footnote 5 [link]

Are there restrictions on the voter registration drive offering something of value to a person in exchange for completing a voter registration application?

Federal law states that whoever ""pays or offers to pay or accepts payment either for registration to vote or for voting shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than five years."" At least one federal appellate court has interpreted ""payment"" as ""intended to include forms of pecuniary value offered or given directly to an individual voter, and indicated the value should be based on ""an assessment of the monetary worth of an item from the perspective of the voter receiving the item."" That case held that food vouchers could be ""payment.""

Another example is California's Secretary of State's interpretation of the federal law to mean that ""Any type of incentive is considered 'payment,' even things as seemingly innocent as cookies or admission to an entertainment event.""

Source (confirmed on: 2016-07-28)

California Secretary of State's Guide to Voter Registration Drives, p. 11 [link]

52 U.S.C. § 10307(c) [link]

United States v. Garcia, 719 F.2d 99, 102-103 (5th Cir. 1983) [link]

Must the registration drive worker sign the completed voter registration application, and must the drive or canvasser place other information on applications?

No.

Does the state have a rule requiring a receipt or other tracking information to be provided to the applicant?

No.

Are there restrictions on copying completed voter registration applications prior to submitting them to the election official, or other restrictions on data entry or disclosure?

Washington law does not address photocopying by registration drives. Original voter registration forms are filed with the county auditor and are considered confidential and unavailable for public inspection or copying under state statute. It is not clear how this affects an organization’s ability to copy completed forms prior to submission. The law also states the only information available for public inspection or copying is a voter's name, address, political jurisdiction, gender, date of birth, voting record, date of registration, and registration number is not available for public inspection or copying. Organizations should review procedures with election officials.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wash. Sec. of State, Guide to Registering Voters, footnote 5 [link]

Wash. Rev. Code. § 29A.08.710 [link]

Is there a time limit for voter registration groups to submit the voter registration applications they collect?

Yes. Under Washington law, registration forms collected by third party voter registration organizations must be submitted to the Secretary of State or county auditor within five business days. The registration date on such forms will be the date they are received by the Secretary of State or county auditor. In addition, according to the Secretary of State’s Guide to Registering Voters, if the registration deadline is fewer than 5 business days away, registration forms collected by third party voter registration organizations must be submitted by the registration deadline.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wash. Sec. of State, Guide to Registering Voters, footnote 5 [link]

Wash. Rev. Code. § 29A.08.115 [link]

What are the consequences for failing to submit applications on time?

Any person who intentionally fails to return another person's completed voter registration form to the proper state or county elections office by the applicable deadline is guilty of a gross misdemeanor. In addition, a person who intentionally disenfranchises an eligible citizen or discriminates against a person eligible to vote by denying voter registration is guilty of a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is punishable by imprisonment of up to 90 days, a fine up to a $1000, or both.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wash. Rev. Code § 9A.20.021(3) [link]

Wash. Rev. Code. § 29A.84.120 [link]

Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.84.050(2) [link]

Same-Day Registration

Can voters register and vote on the same day (i.e., does the state offer same-day registration)?

No.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.140 [link]

Voters Who Have Moved or Changed Their Name

Can people vote if they moved, but did not update their voter registration with their new address?

A person who moves to a new address within the same county may update their registration information at any time by contacting the county auditor's office by phone, e-mailing or mailing a request to update their address, traveling in person to the county auditor's office to update their address, or submitting a voter registration application. However, if the voter submits a request for an address change after ballots are mailed (18 days before Election Day), the voter should contact their county auditor to request a replacement ballot. A replacement ballot request can be submitted by the voter, a family member of the voter, or a registered domestic partner of the voter by phone, mail, electronically, or in person at the county auditor's office or at a voting center that issues replacement ballots. The replacement ballot request must be received no later than 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.

A person who moves to a new address outside of the county must update their address using a voter registration application by the appropriate voter registration deadline, or they will not be able to vote.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Admin. Code § 434-250-080 [link]

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.410 [link]

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.420 [link]

Wa. Admin. Code § 434-324-076(2) [link]

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.40.070 [link]

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.40.160 [link]

Can people vote if they have changed their name, but did not update their voter registration with their new name?

Yes. A voter can update their name at any time by either submitting a new voter registration application or by submitting a signed notice clearly identifying their old name, their new name, and their address.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.440 [link]

Language, Literacy, and Disability Access

Language and Literacy Access

Does the state have any places that must provide election materials in languages other than English, per Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965?

Yes, the following counties must provide election materials in the following languages:

  • Adams County - Spanish
  • Franklin County - Spanish
  • King County - Chinese, Vietnamese
  • Yakima County - Spanish
Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Voting Rights Act Amendments of 2006, Determinations Under Section 203, 76 Fed. Reg. 63602 (Oct. 13, 2011) [link]

Does the state have any other rules about providing election materials in languages other than English?

The Secretary of State must offer voter registration information in the foreign languages required of state agencies.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.270 [link]

Who can help a voter with reading assistance or translation if they can't vote on their own?

Under Section 208 of the federal Voting Rights Act, any voter who requires assistance to vote due to inability to read or write may be given assistance by a person of the voter's choice, other than the voter's employer, an agent of that employer, or an officer or agent of the voter's union.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

52 U.S.C. § 10508 (federal law) [link]

Disability Access

Who can help a voter with a disability if they can't vote on their own?

Under Section 208 of the federal Voting Rights Act, any voter who requires assistance to vote due to inability to read or write may be given assistance by a person of the voter's choice, other than the voter's employer, an agent of that employer, or an officer or agent of the voter's union.

Under state law, a voter casts a ballot in person at a voting center and who states thay have a disability may also request assistance voting from two election officers or a person of the voter's choice.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

52 U.S.C. § 10508 (federal law) [link]

Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.40.160 [link]

Early Voting, Absentee Voting, and Other Ways to Vote

Vote-by-Mail

Does the state provide mail ballots to all voters without a request?

Yes. Ballots are automatically mailed to each registered voter at least 18 days before Election Day, and as soon as possible for to people who register or update their registration information after then. Voters can return their ballots by mail so long as the ballot envelope is postmarked no later than Election Day. Alternatively, starting on the 18th day before Election Day, a voter can drop off their ballot at the county auditor's office, a voting center, or ballot drop site no later than 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. Each county must establish at least one ballot drop site that is not at the county auditor's office.

If a voter does not receive their mail ballot or it is lost or destroyed, they may obtain a replacement ballot from the county auditor by requesting one, or personally or through a family member or registered domestic partner, by telephone, by mail, electronically, or in person at the county auditor's office, or at a voting center that issues replacement ballots. The request must be received no later than 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.

Alternatively, a registered voter can choose to obtain and cast a ballot in person at a voting center. Each county must have a voting center, and it must be open during regular business hours starting the 18th day before Election Day. Voting centers close at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. Voters casting a ballot in person must either show a valid photo ID (such as a driver's license, state identification card, student identification card, tribal identification card, or employer identification card), sign a ballot declaration or cast a provisional ballot, which will be counted so long as the signature on the provisional ballot envelope matches the voter's signature in the voter registration record. Additionally, if a voter requests a ballot from a voting center but already returned their mail ballot, the voter center staff will give them a provisional ballot, and this ballot will not be counted if it is later confirmed that the voter already cast a mail ballot.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wash. Admin. Code § 434-250-105 [link]

Wash. Admin. Code § 434-250-080 [link]

Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.40.010 [link]

Wash. Admin. Code § 434-250-100 [link]

Wash. Admin. Code § 434-250-320 [link]

Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.40.160 [link]

Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.40.070 [link]

Early Voting/Absentee In-Person Voting

Does the state have early voting/absentee in-person voting?

Each county auditor must establish a voting center where voters in the county can deliver their completed mail ballots or cast a ballot in person. Voting centers must be open during regular business hours starting the 18th day before Election Day. Voting centers close at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. If a voter requests a ballot from a voting center but already returned their mail ballot, the voter center staff will give them a provisional ballot, and this ballot will not be counted if it is later confirmed that the voter already cast a mail ballot.

Voters casting a ballot in person at a Voting Center must either show a valid photo ID (such as a driver's license, state identification card, student identification card, tribal identification card, or employer identification card), sign a ballot declaration, or cast a provisional ballot, which will be counted so long as the signature on the provisional ballot envelope matches the voter's signature in the voter registration record.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wash. Admin. Code § 434-250-105 [link]

Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.40.160 [link]

Absentee Voting by Mail

Can anyone vote absentee by mail without an excuse? If not, what excuses allow a voter to vote absentee by mail?

Although all registered voters are automatically mailed ballots before an election, if a voter will be unable to complete and return a regular mail ballot by normal mail delivery by the ballot receipt deadline, then the voter may apply to the county auditor for a ""special absentee ballot."" The voter can apply for a special absentee ballot starting the 90th day before Election Day. To download an application for a special absentee ballot, click here for English and here for Spanish.

Upon receipt of a special absentee ballot request, a regular ballot is mailed if available. If regular ballots are not available, the county auditor must immediately send a special absentee ballot containing the known offices and measures scheduled to appear on the ballot; space for the voter to write in the name of any eligible candidate for each office and vote on any measure; and a list of any candidates who have filed and issues referred to the ballot.

Special absentee ballots should be returned in the same way, and by the same deadline, as regular mail ballots. (For more information, see the question above, ""Does the state provide mail ballots to all voters without a request?"")

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Admin. Code § 434-250-030 [link]

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.40.050 [link]

Presidential-only ballots

Under federal law, any registered voter who moves out of the state after the 30th day before a Presidential election may vote for President and Vice President either in person at the voter’s previous state of residence or using an absentee ballot from the voter’s previous state of residence.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

52 U.S.C. § 10502(e) [link]

Absentee Voting for Military and Overseas Voters

Who is eligible for military/overseas absentee voting?

The following voters qualify as military ""service voters"":

  • A member of the armed forces on active duty
  • A member of a reserve component of the armed forces
  • A spouse or dependent who, by reason of the active duty or service of a uniformed serve member, is absent from the place where they qualified to vote
  • A member of the Merchant Marine
  • A spouse or dependent of an armed forces or Merchant Marine member who, by reason of the active duty or service of the member, is absent from the place of residence where the spouse or dependent is otherwise qualified to vote
  • A student or faculty member at a United States military academy
  • A member of a religious group or welfare agency officially attached to and serving with the armed forces of the United States.

The following voters qualify as ""overseas voters"":

  • A uniformed service member who is absent from the United States on Election Day
  • A person who lives outside the United States and but is otherwise qualified to vote in Washington, which was the last place where the person had a home before leaving the United States
  • Any voter of the state of Washington outside the territorial limits of the United States or the District of Columbia
Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Admin. Code § 434-235-010 [link]

How do voters apply for a military/overseas ballot?

Service and overseas voters who are registered to vote are automatically mailed a ballot. However, a service or overseas voter can also request that their county auditor send them a ballot by e-mail or fax. Additionally, a special or overseas voter can request they be sent a special absentee ballot early using the special absentee ballot application. The voter can specify on their application whether they wish to receive their ballot by e-mail or fax instead of by mail.

If a service or overseas voter is not registered to vote, they may still request the county auditor sent them a ballot by mail, fax, or e-mail, even if they make the request after the voter registration deadline. The request can be made using a Federal Postcard Application (FPCA), a special absentee ballot application, or a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Admin. Code § 434-235-020 [link]

Wa. Admin. Code § 434-235-030 [link]

Deadline to apply for a military/overseas ballot

Military and overseas voters who are not registered to vote can request a ballot through Election Day itself, but they should allow for enough time for the county auditor to receive their request, send them a ballot, and receive it back before the ballot return deadline.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Admin. Code § 434-235-020 [link]

Deadline to return the military/overseas ballot

Service and overseas voters may return their ballot by mail, so long as the declaration is signed no later than Election Day and the ballot is received within 9 days after Special Election, 13 days after a Primary, or within 20 days after a General Election. A service or overseas voter can also return their ballot by fax or e-mail, so long as it is received no later than 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. Finally, a service or overseas voter can return their ballot or in person at the county auditor's office, a voting center, or a ballot drop site, so long as it is delivered no later than 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Admin. Code § 29A.40.110 [link]

Wa. Sec. of State, Military and Overseas Voters [link]

Wa. Admin. Code § 434-235-040 [link]

Who is eligible to use a write-in absentee ballot? How does it work?

Any service or overseas voter may use the federal write-in absentee ballot (FWAB) to vote for federal candidates anytime before an election. It will also be treated as a request for a regular ballot.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Admin. Code 434-235-030 [link]

On Election Day

Where do you vote in person?

Where do you vote in person?

Starting the 18th day before Election Day and ending at 8:00 p.m. Election Day itself, voters have the option of dropping off their ballot at the county auditor's office, a ballot deposit site, or a voting center instead of returning it by mail. Alternatively, voters can travel to a vote center to cast a ballot in person during this period.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wash. Admin. Code § 434-250-105 [link]

Wash. Admin. Code § [link]

Wash. Admin. Code § 434-250-320 [link]

Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.40.160 [link]

What hours are the polls open on Election Day?

What hours are the polls open on Election Day?

Voting centers, where ballots can be cast in person, open at the start of the business hours and close at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. Any voter waiting in line to vote or who is in a voting center at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day must be allowed to vote.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.40.160 [link]

In the Voting Booth

Can a voter bring children into the voting booth with them?

Washington law does not address whether voters may bring children into a voting center's voting booth with them.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

http://apps.leg.wa.gov/wac/default.aspx?cite=434-235-030 [link]

Are employers required to give employees time off to vote?

Are employers required to give employees time off to vote?

No. But an employer may not, through menace or unlawful means, directly or indirectly attempt to prevent an employee from voting.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.84.630 [link]

Campaigning, Electioneering, and Recording Devices

Are there restrictions on campaigning/electioneering during early voting/absentee in-person voting?

Within a voting center, no person can campaign, suggest or persuade a person to vote for against any candidate or ballot measure, distribute cards or handbills, or solicit signatures to any kind of petition.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.84.510 [link]

Wash. Admin. Code § 434-250-100(3) [link]

Are there restrictions on campaigning/electioneering on Election Day?

Within a voting center, and within 25 of a ballot deposit box that is not located inside a voting center, no person can campaign, suggest or persuade a person to vote for against any candidate or ballot measure, distribute cards or handbills, or solicit signatures to any kind of petition.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.84.510 [link]

Wash. Admin. Code § 434-250-100(3) [link]

Can a voter wear a button or t-shirt with a candidate's name or logo on it into the polling place when they vote?

State law does not specifically address whether campaign attire is allowed in voting centers or within 25 feet of a ballot deposit site. Rules may vary by county.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.84.510 [link]

Wash. Admin. Code § 434-250-100(3) [link]

*NEW 1** Can a voter use a digital or recording device (such as a cell phone or camera) inside the polling place or voting booth?

State law does not address the use of digital devices in the polling place. Local practices may vary.

It is illegal for a voter to intentionally show their marked ballot to anyone else (this would include taking a picture of a marked ballot and showing it to others).

Source (confirmed on: 10/26/2016)

Wis. Stat. Ann. § 12.13 [link]

*NEW 1** Can a voter use a digital or recording device (such as a cell phone or camera) inside the polling place or voting booth?

Washington is a vote-by-mail state, so this does not fully apply.

Voters are not prohibited from taking a picture of their ballots.

Source (confirmed on: 10/26/2016)

Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.84.510 [link]

http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=29A.84.420 [link]

*NEW 2** Can a voter use a digital or recording device (such as a cell phone or camera) outside the polling place but within the zone around the polling place where campaigning/electioneering is banned?

State law does not separately address this issue (see previous question).

Who's at the Polls?

*NEW 3* Can a poll observer use a digital or recording device (such as a cell phone or camera) in the polling place?

State law does not address this issue. Local practices may vary.

Source (confirmed on: 10/16/2016)

Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.84.510 [link]

Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.84.420 [link]

Provisional Voting and Voters at the Wrong Polling Place

When should a voter be offered a provisional ballot?

Under Section 203 of the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002, if a person claims to be a registered voter in the jurisdiction in which the person desires to vote and the person claims to be eligible to vote in a federal election, but the person’s name does not appear on the official list of eligible voters for the polling place or an election official asserts that the person is not eligible to vote, then that person must be permitted to cast a provisional ballot at that polling place. The person may cast the provisional ballot after executing, before an election official at the polling place, a written affirmation stating that the person is (1) a registered voter in the jurisdiction, and (2) eligible to vote in that election.

Additionally, any person who votes in a federal election as a result of a federal or state court order, or any other order extending the time established for closing the polls by a state law in effect 10 days before the date of that election, may only vote in that election by casting a provisional ballot. Any such ballot cast must be separated and held apart from other provisional ballots cast for different reasons.

Under state law, voting centers must provide provisional ballots to voters in the following circumstances:

  • The voter did not show the required ID when voting in person at a voting center. The provisional ballot will be counted so long as the voter's signature on the ballot declaration envelope matches their signature in their voter registration record.
  • The voter is a ""provisionally registered voter,"" meaning that they did not write on their voter registration application a valid Washington driver's license, state ID card number, or their Social Security Number, and the voter still has not provided the county auditor with such information or other acceptable proof of identity. Their ballot will be counted only if they provide proof of identity to the county auditor no later than 8 days after a special election, 12 days after a primary, or 19 days after a general election. (For more information, see the ""Following up on a provisional ballot"" question below.)
  • The voter registration system indicates that the voter has already returned a mail ballot or otherwise already voted in the election. If election officials later determine that the voter had already cast a ballot, the provisional ballot will not count.
  • The voter's name does not appear as an active registered voter in the voter registration system. The provisional ballot will be counted only if election officials later determine that the voter was eligible and registered or their registration was wrongly cancelled.
  • The voter is not sure whether they are eligible to vote on certain candidates or issues. Only those candidates and issues that the voter is eligible to vote for will be counted.
Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.04.008 (provisional ballot definition) [link]

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.40.160 (voting centers and ID) [link]

Wa. Admin. Code § 434-262-032 (provisional ballot disposition) [link]

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.60.190 (provisionally registered voters) [link]

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.625 (cancelled and inactive votes) [link]

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.107 (provisionally registered voters) [link]

52 U.S.C. § 21082 (federal law) [link]

Following up on a provisional ballot

If a person does not provide proof of identity when registering to vote, the person will be ""provisionally registered."" They will still be sent a mail ballot, or they may choose to cast a ballot in person at a voting center, but if they do not provide proof of identity before voting, their ballot will be considered a provisional ballot. The voter must then submit proof of identity to the county auditor's office no later than 8 days after a special election, 12 days after a primary, or 19 days after a general election.

The following forms of ID satisfy the proof-of-identity requirement:

  • A valid Washington driver's license number, state ID card number, or the last four digits of the voter's Social Security Number, if the number matches a government database
  • A valid photo identification
  • A valid enrollment card of a federally recognized Indian tribe in Washington state
  • A copy of a current utility bill, bank statement; government check, paycheck, or government document (other than a voter registration card) that shows both the name and address of the voter.
Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.60.190 [link]

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.107 [link]

Finding out if a provisional ballot was counted

Each county must have a system that allows voters to find out whether their provisional ballot counted and, if not, the reason why not. This information must be available to voters no later than 17 days after a special election, 21 days after a primary, or 28 days after a general election.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.60.190 [link]

Wa. Admin. Code § 434-261-125 [link]

Voter ID and Challenges

Voter ID

Who must show ID to vote?

Any voter who casts a ballot in person at a voting center.

Certain first-time voters who did not provide proof of identity when registering to vote or before the election must also show ID when voting, regardless of whether they vote a regular mail ballot or cast a ballot in person at a voting center (see question below).

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.40.160 (voting centers and ID) [link]

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.107 (provisionally registered voters) [link]

Are there any special requirements for first-time voters?

If a person does not provide proof of identity when registering to vote, the person will be ""provisionally registered."" They will still be sent a mail ballot, or they may choose to cast a ballot in person at a voting center, but if they do not provide proof of identity before voting, their ballot will be considered a provisional ballot. The voter must then submit proof of identity to the county auditor's office no later than 8 days after a special election, 12 days after a primary, or 19 days after a general election.

The following forms of ID satisfy the proof-of-identity requirement:

  • A valid Washington driver's license number, state ID card number, or the last four digits of the voter's Social Security Number, if the number matches a government database
  • A valid photo identification
  • A valid enrollment card of a federally recognized Indian tribe in Washington state
  • A copy of a current utility bill, bank statement; government check, paycheck, or government document (other than a voter registration card) that shows both the name and address of the voter.
Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.60.190 (provisionally registered voters) [link]

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.107 (provisionally registered voters) [link]

What ID is acceptable?

For those voting in person at a voting center, the ID must be a valid photo identification, such as a driver's license, state ID card, student ID card, tribal ID card or employer ID card.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.40.160 (voting centers and ID) [link]

Is a student ID an acceptable form of identification?

Yes, so long as it is valid and shows the voter's photograph.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.40.160 (voting centers and ID) [link]

Does the address on the ID have to match the address at which the voter is registered?

No.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.40.160 (voting centers and ID) [link]

If a voter has no ID, are there alternatives such as an oath or witness?

A voter who cannot provide ID may vote a provisional ballot. The ballot will be counted if the signature on the declaration matches the signature on the voter's registration record. If the voter registered using their mark or can no longer sign their name, the voter must be identified by another registered voter.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.40.160 (voting centers and ID) [link]

Do elections without federal offices on the ballot (such as off-year gubernatorial elections) have different ID requirements?

No.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.40.160 (voting centers and ID) [link]

Challenges to Voters at the Polling Place

Who can challenge a voter at the polling place?

Although any registered voter or prosecuting attorney can challenge another voter's right to vote, most challenges cannot be made at a voting center. This is because challenges must be made at least 45 days before Election Day, except for voters who registered less than 60 days before Election Day, who may be challenged no later than 10 days before Election Day or 10 days after the voter is added to the voter roll, whichever comes later. In no circumstance can a voter be challenged after they have received a ballot, regardless of whether they received their ballot through the mail or in person at a voting center.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.810 [link]

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.820 [link]

What are the allowed reasons on which a voter can be challenged at the polling place?

A challenge to the person's right to vote must be based on personal knowledge of one of the following:

  • The challenged voter has been convicted of a felony and the voter's civil rights have not been restored
  • The challenged voter has been judicially declared ineligible to vote due to mental incompetency
  • The challenged voter does not live at the residential address provided
  • The challenged voter will not be 18 years of age by Election Day
  • The challenged voter is not a citizen of the United States
Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.810(1) [link]

Is there a requirement for the challenger to provide cause or evidence?

A challenge to the person's right to vote must be based on the challenger's personal knowledge, and the challenger has burden to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the challenged voter's registration is improper. The challenger must sign a challenger form swearing, under penalty of perjury, that based on their personal knowledge and belief, and having exercised due diligence to personally verify the evidence presented, the challenged voter is not eligible to vote or does not live at the address they provided. The challenge may not be based on unsupported allegations or allegations by anonymous third parties. All documents pertaining to the challenge are public records

Additionally, if the challenge is based on the ground that The challenged voter does not live at the residential address provided, then the challenger must either (1) write the challenged voter's actual residence on the challenge form, or (2) submit evidence that he or she exercised due diligence to verify that the challenged voter does not reside at the address provided and to attempt to contact the challenged voter to learn the challenged voter's actual residence, including that the challenger personally did all of the following:

  • Sent a letter with return service requested to the challenged voter's residential address provided, and to the challenged voter's mailing address, if provided;
  • Visited the residential address provided and contacted persons at the address to determine whether the voter resides at the address and, if not, obtained and submitted with the challenge form a signed affidavit subject to the penalties of perjury from a person who owns or manages property, resides, or is employed at the address provided, that to their personal knowledge the challenged voter does not live at the address as provided on the voter registration;
  • Searched local telephone directories, including online directories, to determine whether the voter maintains a telephone listing at any address in the county;
  • Searched county auditor property records to determine whether the challenged voter owns any property in the county; and
  • Searched the statewide voter registration database to determine if the voter is registered at any other address in the state.
Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.840 [link]

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.810 [link]

How does a voter defend their eligibility to vote if they are challenged?

If the challenge is in proper form and the factual basis meets the legal grounds for a challenge, the county auditor must notify the challenged voter and provide a copy of the affidavit. The challenged voter must be provided a reasonable opportunity to respond at a hearing conducted by the County Canvassing Board. he challenger and challenged voter may either appear in person or submit testimony by affidavit.

The challenger has the burden to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the challenged voter's registration is improper. If the challenge is to the residential address provided by the voter, the challenged voter may provide evidence that he or she resides at the location described in their voter registration record or meets one of the legally allowed exceptions. If either the challenger or challenged voter fails to appear at the hearing, the challenge must be resolved based on the available facts.

If the challenged voter casts a ballot after the challenge was made, their ballot will be treated as a challenged ballot. If the County Canvassing Board sustains the challenge, ballot will not be counted, except that if the challenge was based on the voter's address, the ballot may be counted for those candidates and measures the challenged voter was eligible to vote for.

A challenged voter can reregister or transfer their registration up until the day before Election Day.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.840 [link]

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.820 [link]

State and Local Election Officials

The State Election Authority

Who/what is the state election authority?

Secretary of State

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.04.611 [link]

Current official

Kim Wyman

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Sec. of State, Kim Wyman Biography [link]

E-mail

elections@sos.wa.gov

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Sec. of State, Contact Us [link]

Phone

(360) 902-4180

Toll-Free: (800) 448-4881

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Sec. of State, Contact Us [link]

Address

Physical Address:
520 Union Avenue SE
Olympia, WA

Mailing Address:
PO BOX 40229
Olympia, WA 98504-0229

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Sec. of State, Contact Us [link]

Local Election Authorities

What local election official(s) are in charge of major state-level elections (such as the even-year November general elections)?

County auditor

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § [link]

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.105 [link]

What is the county-level election official?

County auditor

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § [link]

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.105 [link]

What is the municipal-level election official?

Varies by municipality.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § [link]

Contact information for local election authorities

Click here.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

County Elections Departments in Washington State [link]

[link]

The Voter File

Voter File Basics

National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) Disclosure Law

Section 8 of the federal NVRA requires that each State maintain for at least 2 years and make available for public inspection and, where available, photocopying at a reasonable cost, all records concerning the implementation of programs and activities conducted for the purpose of ensuring the accuracy and currency of official lists of eligible voters, except to the extent that such records contain information about a person declining to register to vote or information about the identity of a voter registration agency through which a particular voter might have chosen to register.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

52 U.S.C. § 20507 [link]

Acquiring a Voter File

Under state procedure, who may acquire a voter file?

Any member of the public. Click here to access an online request form.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.710 [link]

Who is the state-level contact for acquiring a voter file?

Secretary of State

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.720 [link]

How much does the state charge for the file?

Statutes allow the Secretary of State to charge the actual cost of reproduction. The Secretary of State does not charge for e-mailing electronic records, but it the records are sent on a CD or DVD by mail, the charge is $5 for the CD or DVD plus mailing costs.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Admin. Code § 434-12A-100 [link]

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.720 [link]

What format is the file available in?

Tab delimited text file

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Sec. of State, Washington Voter Registration Database Extract and Voting History File Formats [link]

Use of the Voter File

Does the state have restrictions on commercial use of the voter file?

Yes; voter registration lists may not be used for the purpose of mailing or delivering any advertisement or offer for any property, establishment, organization, product, or service or for the purpose of mailing or delivering any solicitation for money, services, or anything of value.

However, the lists and labels may be used for any political purpose. “Political purpose” means a purpose concerned with the support of or opposition to any candidate for any partisan or nonpartisan office or concerned with the support of or opposition to any ballot proposition or issue. “Political purpose” includes, but is not limited to, such activities as the advertising for or against any candidate or ballot measure or the solicitation of financial support.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-08-02)

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.740 [link]

Wa. Rev. Code § 29A.08.720 [link]