Voting in Assisted Living Facilities
The following offers guidance to employees and family members who provide assistance to voters with disabilities and voters who are living in assisted living facilities.
How you can help
Keep voter registration records current. When a client moves into your home or facility, help them take the time to update their address.
- VoteWA.gov is Washington State’s online registration portal. It’s an easy way to help your client update their mailing address or, help them complete a paper voter registration form. Request a paper form by mail or print a form on our website.
- Consider adding voter registration forms and voter cancellation forms to your intake packets.
Ensure that ballots and voter pamphlets are delivered and routed to residents. If ballots don’t arrive by two weeks prior to the election, call your county elections office. They can track the mail, or issue a replacement ballot.
- Consider a subscription for the facility to receive extra copies of the state Voters’ Pamphlet each year.
Please provide contact info and quantities to [email protected].
Remind residents of the election date and deadlines.
- Ballots must be postmarked by Election Day. The USPS recommends mailing at least one week before Election Day.
- If returning within one week of Election Day, consider using an official ballot drop box.
- You can find drop box locations at VoteWA.gov or by contacting your county elections office.
Here’s how you can offer assistance.
State law allows voters to receive assistance in voting. A voter may designate an election worker, assisted living staff member, or a volunteer.
- Clarify with your resident what assistance they are specifically requesting (marking, reading, seeing, folding or handling paper, transportation to a Voting Center).
- Limit your assistance to ONLY what the voter requests.
- When possible, a team of two people should provide requested assistance.
- Provide assistance in private area, to protect voter privacy.
- The ballot is for the voter and the voter only.
- Never ask the voter to discuss their vote or share their reasoning. Simply provide the assistance requested.
- If the voter doesn’t indicate how to mark a ballot choice, do not mark it for them.
- Withhold a ballot, even if you strongly believe that the resident is not competent.
- Give the ballot to a child or relative.
- Vote on behalf of a resident.
- Help with decision-making, even if requested.
When a voter asks for your opinion, here are some suggested responses.
- “That’s for you to decide, Bob.”
- “It’s important for me to keep my opinions to myself.”
- “You can skip that race or question if you want, your ballot will still count.”
- “Would you like a Voters Pamphlet?”
Why up to date signatures are important
We check the signature on every ballot envelope. Signatures change over time. If the signature on an envelope doesn’t match the signature on file, we can’t count the ballot. If that happens, your county elections division will mail a letter to the voter and provide options for “curing” the signature issue.
Encourage seniors to update their signatures on file:
- Signature updates can occur at any time by filling out a new voter registration form.
- Sign using your everyday signature.
If the voter can’t sign the envelope, they may simply make a mark, such as an “X.” When the X is used, two individuals must also sign as witnesses. These witnesses can be anyone, including facility staff.
The signature of a Power of Attorney is not allowed. Only the voter can vote and sign their ballot.
Voters who are starting to experience mental incapacitation may want to consider cancelling their voter registration voluntarily.
- The voter needs to cancel registration in writing.
- The voter needs to sign the request.
Only a court can declare an incapacitated person incompetent for voting (RCW 29A.08.515).
Instructions for handling misdirected ballots.
Because residents come and go, your facility will receive ballots after a resident departs. Please put these back in the mail stream, marked in one of three ways:
- Forward to – Write the voter’s forwarding address on the envelope.
- No forwarding address – Return to Sender.
- Deceased – Return to Sender.
You may receive additional ballots until the county elections office verifies the voter’s status or location. Just keep returning the ballots rather than throwing them away.
Your county elections office can help.
They can print large format ballots or Voter Pamphlet pages at 200 or 300 percent.
If your facility can provide transportation to a voting center, every county provides onsite assistance and offers the use of an accessible voting unit for casting a ballot.
Contact your county elections office for more information.
If your client would like assistance in Spanish, Chinese, or Vietnamese, please call 800-448-4881. Information is also available on our website at sos.wa.gov/elections and VoteWa.gov.