Frequently Asked Questions on Voting by Mail
Washington State votes by mail. Vote by mail is convenient and gives you extra time to learn about the ballot measures and candidates before casting your vote.
1. Receive your ballot
Your ballot is mailed to you at least 18 days before each election. To receive your ballot, your voter registration mailing address must be current. You can update your address online with MyVote.
If you are a registered voter and do not receive your ballot, contact your county elections department.
2. Vote your ballot
Your ballot packet will include a ballot, a secrecy envelope, and a return envelope. Follow the instructions that accompany your ballot. If you need a replacement ballot, contact your county elections department.
Be an informed voter
Washington has many ways to help voters become informed about ballot measures and candidates:
- The state General Election Voters’ Pamphlet is mailed to every household in Washington. If you need the General Election Voters’ Pamphlet in accessible formats or alternate languages, call (800) 448-4881 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- For personalized ballot measure and candidate information online, go to MyVote.
- For all ballot measures and candidates, visit the Online Voters’ Guide.
- For local races, visit the website for your county elections department.
Other sources of information about candidates and issues include local newspapers, television, libraries, political parties, and campaigns.
3. Return your ballot
Your ballot must be:
- Postmarked no later than Election Day; or
- Returned to a designated ballot drop box by 8 p.m. on Election Day; or
- Returned in person to your county elections department by 8 p.m. on Election Day.
If you fail to sign the ballot declaration, or the signature on the ballot declaration does not match the signature in your voter registration record, your county elections department will contact you. If you are unable to sign the declaration, make a mark in front of two witnesses and have them sign in the designated spaces.
Ballot Processing and Secrecy
It is essential to the integrity of an election that ballot processing be accurate and transparent, while maintaining your right to a secret ballot. After you return your voted ballot, your county elections department follows this ballot counting process:
1. Your signature on the outer return envelope is checked against the signature on file in your voter registration record to make sure they match.
2. You are credited for voting in that election. This ensures that only one ballot from each voter is counted.
3. The outer return envelope, which identifies you, is then separated from the inner security envelope, which contains your voted ballot. Your ballot cannot be traced back to you, ensuring the secrecy of your vote.
4. All ballots are inspected to make sure the tabulating machine will be able to read all votes. Tabulation equipment is tested before every election to make sure it is working accurately.
The above steps continue with all ballots until the election is certified.
Elections are certified 14 days after Primaries and Special Elections, and 21 days after General Elections. Preliminary election results are released on election night after 8 p.m. and are updated as additional ballots are counted.
You are welcome to observe ballot processing. Contact your county elections department to arrange a time.