The Secretary of State's Office maintains one statewide list of voters that serves as the official list of registered voters for Washington. In January 2002, the Secretary of State asked the Legislature to authorize the creation of a statewide voter registration database. The Legislature and Governor approved the request. That same year Congress passed the Help America Vote Act, which required states to develop a centralized voter registration database. In compliance with the Help America Vote Act, the Washington State Voter Registration Database was launched in January 2006.
The Office of the Secretary of State works in partnership with the County Auditors, election management system vendors, the Social Security Administration, the Department of Licensing, the Department of Health, the Department of Corrections, and the Office of the Administrator of the Courts to improve the accuracy of voter registration data.
Prior to the launch of the statewide voter registration database, the 39 county elections departments maintained separate voter registration lists, which resulted in many duplicate registrations. The development of one statewide list allows the Secretary of State's Office to combine this data. In addition, one centralized list also provides a more efficient method to screen for duplicate registrations, deceased voters, and voters convicted of a felony.
The Department of Corrections and the state court system provides the Secretary of State's office with lists of persons who are ineligible to vote due to a felony conviction. Each month, the Elections Division compares the most recent list to the voter registration database using names and dates of birth. The list of voters from the resulting match are sent letters explaining that their registration will automatically be canceled in 30 days unless they contact their county elections office to dispute the cancellation.
For more information, see the Felony Convictions and Voting Rights page.
Each month, the Office of the Secretary of State receives a list of deceased people from the Department of Health, as well as the Social Security Administration. These lists are compared to the voter registration list and potential matches are flagged for research by the County Auditors’ offices. Voter registrations of deceased persons are usually canceled within a month. County Auditors may also remove registrations of deceased persons using published obituaries or written notices from relatives.