Frequently Asked Questions about Elections
- Q: Is our election system secure from cyberattack?
Washington employs the recommendations raised by security experts, and have done so for years, such as paper-based systems, including voter verifiable paper audit trails; independent testing; pre- and post-election audits; and physical security of tabulation equipment. The VoteWA system is secured by highly skilled Office of the Secretary of State IT staff and Security Operations Center, using state of the art equipment and following IT industry best practices. We have embarked on an unprecedented opportunity to work collaboratively with the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that our election systems remain secure. This partnership allows us to work together, elections and IT experts, working hand in hand to ensure our systems are secure.
- Q: Can the election be rigged?
Washington employs the recommendations raised by security experts, and have done so for years, such as paper based-systems, including voter verifiable paper audit trails; independent testing; pre- and post-election audits; and physical security of tabulation equipment. Before a tabulation system can be used in Washington, we require testing at a federally approved independent testing lab. These expert testers include security reviews as a part of their overall testing efforts. Then, systems are tested here at the state level and reviewed by our own voting systems certification board, comprised of technology experts, accessibility experts, and certified county election officials. Counties must then perform acceptance testing and logic and accuracy testing prior to every election. In addition, we conduct post-election audits, where we draw precincts and races at random and compare the vote totals from the tabulator to a hand count of ballots before the election is certified.
- Q: What is the law on restoration of voting rights and felony convictions?
If a person was convicted of a felony in Washington, the right to vote is restored once the person completes their sentence and is not currently serving a sentence of total confinement in prison. Once the right to vote is restored, the person must re-register to vote in order to receive a ballot. If the felony conviction is from another state or in federal court, the right to vote is restored as long as the person is not currently incarcerated for that felony.
- Q: How do I find a drop box?
Login to VoteWA and Select Drop Boxes and Voting Center Locations. You can then view a list or a map of drop boxes and voting centers in your area.
- Q: What services are available to voters living with disabilities?
As a voter with a disability, you can request a reasonable accommodation or assistance to vote. The Office of the Secretary of State is committed to ensuring accessibility at voting centers, and that you have the opportunity to vote privately and independently.
Accessible formats of the voters' pamphlet are available online. If you wish to join the subscription list to receive a copy on USB drive of the Voters' Pamphlet, please contact the voter hotline at (800) 448-4881 or email [email protected].
Accessible voting units (AVUs) are available until 8 p.m. on Election Day.
- Q: Is a voters' guide available online? How about PDF of the print version?
Yes, the Voters’ Pamphlet is available online in PDF, Text, and Audio. You can also view the Voters’ Pamphlet in Spanish, Chinese, or Vietnamese. Go to the results page, select your desired election year, and click on the "Voters' Guide" link to see all your options.
- Q: How can I find results on election night?
Results can be found at vote.wa.gov on Election Night. Results will be posted after drop boxes and voting centers close at 8 p.m. Expect the first results to publish online at around 8:15 p.m. Some counties continue processing ballots after 8 p.m. and post updates to results later on Election Night.
- Q: What kind of turnout do we expect for this election? How long will it take to get results for the majority of the ballots?
Results are certified by counties on 10 days after a Special Election, 14 days after a Primary, or 21 days after a General Election. The State certifies Primary results no later than 17 days after a Primary or 30 days after a General Election.
- Q: What election improvements and reforms have our state made since the 2004 governor's election that highlighted some areas for improvement?
Well over 500 election law and rule changes have been made since 2004. These changes include:
- Electronic voting devices are required to have a voter verified paper audit trail.
- ID must be confirmed prior to vote being counted.
- Ballot tallying equipment is certified by an independent testing lab approved by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission before it can be used in Washington State.
- County auditors must contact voters if their ballot signature does not match the voter’s registration signature.
- The Secretary of State identifies and removes voters who are currently under the supervision of the Department of Corrections.
- County Auditors must account for every ballot received.This reconciliation must be presented to the county canvassing board when the election is certified and made available to the public.If there is a discrepancy, the county auditor must provide an explanation.
- State Patrol signature verification training is required by election staff comparing ballot signatures.
- In person disability access voting must be available 18 days before an election.The county auditor must either compare the voter’s signature or check identification before voters may use these units.
- A random check of ballot tabulation equipment is performed upon mutual agreement of the political party observers or at the discretion of the county auditor. A manual count is compared to the tabulated results to verify the accuracy of the equipment.
- County election procedures are reviewed by the Secretary of State. The auditor or county canvassing board must take corrective action for any problems uncovered during the review.The Secretary of State must verify that corrective action was taken.
- Several increases in penalties for election-related fraud.
- Q: How can you tell if somebody tries to vote more than one ballot?
Each voter has a single active record in the statewide voter registration database (VoteWA). When a ballot is received by the Election Division, the signature is compared to the voter’s registration and the voter’s record is marked as having returned a ballot. If the voter attempts to return an additional ballot, the system warns the election official that a ballot has already been returned. Election workers report that information to the canvassing board, who in turn reports it to the Prosecuting Attorney if further investigation is warranted.
- Q: Is it too late to register for this election?
To register by mail or online, your application must be received no later than 8 days before Election Day. Register to vote in person during business hours and any time before 8:00 PM on Election Day.
- Q: Is it possible to get a replacement ballot?
Yes. Contact your county elections office to determine the best way to receive a replacement ballot. Replacement ballots may be sent via mail or electronically, picked up at the elections office, or printed from an online application.
- Q: Is it OK to selfie myself holding my voted ballot and post it on social media?
The state of Washington does not directly prohibit ballot selfies. However, it is illegal to view another’s ballot for a purpose prohibited by law, such as vote buying.
- Q: What are these tax advisory votes I see on my ballot?
Advisory votes are the result of Initiative 960, approved by voters in 2007. Advisory Votes give voters the opportunity to advise the Legislature whether to repeal or maintain a tax increase. Advisory votes are non-binding votes that will not change the law. The Office of the Attorney General creates the ballot title according to the requirements of the initiative.
- Q: Does my write-in vote count?
Every voter has the right to write-in a candidate instead of voting for one printed on the ballot. These votes are tabulated and reported cumulatively in one bucket as write-in votes. This represents the total number of all write-in votes cast. These are considered valid votes if the candidate is certified.
However, write-in votes for individual candidates are only hand tallied if the total number of write-in votes may be enough to make a difference in the outcome of the race. (RCW 29A.60.021)