We are about three weeks away from the 2020 General Election, when citizens of the United States of America will decide who will be the next president and who should represent them in Congress. In addition, Washington state will be selecting its next governor, as well as senators and representatives in the state capitol.
There is often a lot of confusion about voting, especially for first-time voters and those who may have moved since the last election. Washington state runs a vote-by-mail system. This voter guide aims to clarify the voting process and provide some tips for voters to avoid common mistakes.
Registering to Vote
For new voters, you must first submit a voter registration form to receive a ballot by mail. There are three ways to register:
- Online: You can fill out a voter registration form on the Washington Secretary of State’s website with either a current Washington state driver’s license or a current Washington State ID card.
- By Mail: You can download and print a voter registration form to fill out on paper. Then, mail it to the King County Elections Office (919 SW Grady Way Renton, WA 98057) and make sure it is received before the October 26 deadline. This method does not require a driver’s license or ID card, but you need to fill in part of your social security number.
- In-person: You can register to vote at the King County Elections Office in Renton or at a Vote Center.
To be eligible to vote, you must be a U.S. citizen and a legal resident of Washington state, and be at least 18 years old by November 3. Anyone disqualified from voting by a court order or is being supervised by the Department of Corrections for a Washington felony conviction is not eligible to vote.
After you are registered, you will receive a ballot package in the mail. The package includes a ballot, an envelope and a secrecy sleeve to cover your ballot when you mail it back, as well as a return envelope with pre-paid postage. If you are registered but did not receive a ballot, contact King County via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (206-296-8683).
Returning Your Ballot
There are two ways to return your ballot:
- Ballot drop box: Drop your ballot at your closest drop box before 8 p.m. on November 3, which is Election Day. You can find your closest drop box here. One will be placed in front of Sammamish City Hall.
- Mail-in: Mail your ballot through the U.S. Postal Service. Due to the recent slowdown in postal delivery, it is recommended that voters mail back their ballot at least one week before Election Day to ensure it arrives on time. So please mark your calendars for October 27 to mail your ballot.
Avoiding these Common Mistakes to Ensure Your Vote Gets Counted
When filling out your ballot and returning it, be cautious of these common mistakes that can disqualify your ballot:
- Use the right pen according to the instructions on the ballot to ensure that your ballot can be read correctly by the scanners.
- When returning your ballot, be sure to sign your envelope and double-check that your signature matches the most recent signature on file with the state.
- Put your ballot in the secrecy sleeve before placing it in the return envelope, and seal it well.
Out of Town or Out of State?
If you are a Sammamish resident who is out of town during the 18-day voting period, you can vote in one of the following ways:
- If you have access to a mailbox, contact the King County Election Office and provide your current mailing address (can be out of state) to receive a ballot.
- If you have access to the internet and a printer, download and print your ballot online. Then, return the ballot through a ballot drop box near you (if you are in Washington state) or mail it through the U.S. Postal Service (if you are out of state). Ballots should be available for download once they are mailed out on October 14.
Here are some other important dates to keep in mind:
- October 14: Ballots are mailed for the General Election and voting centers are open
- October 15: Ballot drop boxes are open
- October 26: Deadline for online and mail (received, not postmarked) voter registration submissions
- November 3: Deadline for in-person voter registration or updates
- November 3: All returned ballots must be postmarked, or returned to a ballot drop box by 8 p.m.
For accessible voting options, check out the King County website.