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Voting In Washington

 

Return to Elections Homepage

 

Voter Eligibility Return to top


Washington State encourages every eligible person to register to vote and participate fully in all elections. Each of us is responsible for protecting the integrity of the electoral process by providing equal access, and guarding against fraud and discrimination.

To register to vote, you must be:

  • A citizen of the United States;

  • A legal resident of Washington State;

  • At least 18 years old by Election Day;

  • Not disqualified from voting due to a court order; and

  • Not under Department of Corrections supervision for a Washington felony conviction.

Citizenship
 

You must be a citizen of the United States. If you have questions about citizenship, contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Residency Requirements
 

You must be a resident of Washington State. Your voting residence is your permanent address or a transitional address where you physically reside. MORE>>

Felons and Voting Rights
 

If you have been convicted of a felony, your right to vote is restored as long as you are not under the authority (in prison or on community custody) of the Department of Corrections. Once your right is restored, you must re-register to vote in order to receive a ballot. MORE>>

Mental Competency and Voting Rights
 

Only a Superior Court can declare a person ineligible to vote due to mental incompetency. A guardian may not vote on behalf of the person under guardianship, and power of attorney does not extend to voting. MORE>>

Do Not


Submit false information on a voter registration application;
Register in more than one location; or
Accept payment, or offer to pay another, to register to vote.
If you have witnessed, or been a victim of, fraud or discrimination you may submit a Voter Concern Form.

 

Residency Requirements Return to top
 

To register to vote in Washington State, you must be a resident of the state.

You must establish your voting residency address at least 30 days before Election Day. You may specify a mailing address that is different from your residential address.

You may only be registered to vote at one location, even if you own multiple residences. If you move or are temporarily away, you may maintain your voter registration at that address until you register to vote elsewhere.

If you have a nontraditional address, such as a motor home or transitional housing, your voting residence is the physical location at the time you register to vote. You may list a different address for your mailing address.

If you are a United States citizen living abroad, you may use your last Washington address. If you have never lived in the country, you may use the last address of your parents or other family member.

Even if you are living outside of Washington State, you will retain your residency if you are:

  • employed in the civil or military service of the state or of the United States;

  • living overseas;

  • attending college or any institution of learning; or

  • confined in any public prison.

You may maintain your voter registration in Washington State until you register to vote elsewhere.
For more information about voting residence, see Article VI, Sections 1 and 4 of the Washington State Constitution, RCW 29A.04.151, and RCW 29A.08.112.

To challenge a voter registration, you must file a Voter Challenge with the county elections department where that person is registered.

 

Vote by Mail Return to top
 

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 VoteWA.

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 [email protected].

  • For personalized ballot measure and candidate information online, go to VoteWA.

  • 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.

Find out more about the next steps of ballot processing and secrecy.

02/21/2012

 

Mental Competency and Voting Rights Return to top
 

Only a Superior Court can declare a person unable to vote due to mental incompetency and therefore unable to vote. Do not assume that a person under a guardianship due to their mental capacity is ineligible to vote.

A guardian may not vote on behalf of a person under guardianship, and power of attorney does not extend to voting.

Whether a person under guardianship may vote depends on when the guardianship was imposed and whether the guardianship is full or partial.

  • If full guardianship was imposed before July 24, 2005, the person is not eligible to vote unless the court order specifically states otherwise.

  • If partial guardianship was imposed before July 24, 2005, the person retains the right to vote unless the court order specifically states otherwise.

  • If full or partial guardianship was imposed on or after July 24, 2005, the person retains the right to vote unless the court order specifically states otherwise.

For more information, see Article VI, Section 3 of the Washington State Constitution, RCW 11.88.010(5), or Washington Law Help.

To challenge a voter registration, you must file a Voter Challenge with the county elections department where that person is registered.

 

Felons and Voting Rights Return to top
 

If you were convicted of a felony in Washington State, your right to vote is restored as long as you are not under the supervision (in prison, on community custody or parole) of the Department of Corrections (DOC). Once your right is restored, you must re-register to vote in order to receive a ballot.

If you have questions about your status with DOC, you can call (800) 430-9674.

Restoring your right to vote

  • If you were convicted of a felony in a Washington State court, your right to vote is restored unless you are currently under the supervision (in prison, on community custody or parol) with DOC. If you have questions about whether you are under supervision, call DOC at (800) 430-9674.

  • If you were convicted of a felony in another state or in federal court, your right to vote is restored as long as you are not currently incarcerated.

  • Once your right to vote is restored, you must re-register in order to receive a ballot. You can re-register online with VoteWA, by mail, or in person.

  • You do not lose the right to vote for a misdemeanor conviction or a conviction in juvenile court.

Three times a year, the Secretary of State uses information provided by DOC and the state court system to screen the list of registered voters for ineligible felons. If you are registered to vote, but are ineligible because of a felony conviction, you will be sent a letter explaining that your registration will be cancelled in 30 days.The letter provides information on how to dispute the cancellation (RCW 29A.08.520).

Maintaining your right to vote

  • Do not commit another felony.

  • If you have willfully failed to make three payments in a 12 month period, the prosecutor can request the court to revoke your voting rights. If you show you have made a good-faith effort to pay, your voting rights can be restored by the court.

To challenge a voter registration, you must file a Voter Challenge with the county elections department where that person is registered.

 

Military and Overseas Voters Return to top
 

As a military or overseas voter, you have several options for registering to vote, receiving your ballot and returning it. If you are a military spouse or dependant, and you are away from home because of the military service, you also qualify as a military voter.

In addition to the information below, you can learn more with our video,

"Serving Those Who Serve - A Guide to Military Voting in Washington State."​
 

Registration Deadlines
 

Military and overseas voters are exempt from the regular voter registration deadlines. The last day to register and request a ballot is Election Day. Even if you are not registered, you may still vote and send in a ballot because your signature on the declaration attests to your eligibility and constitutes registration.

Registering to Vote
 

When registering, please indicate you are in the armed forces or living overseas.

You must list a Washington residential address. This can be your last address in the state, or that of a family member. Your mailing address can be anywhere in the world.

Register to vote online with VoteWA. VoteWA requires a Washington State ID or driver license.

If you do not have a Washington State driver license or ID, you must register using a paper form or in person. You can return the paper form by mail, email or fax to your county elections department.

If you are stationed in Washington but decide to register in your home state, you can do so using the Federal Voting Assistance Postcard.

Receiving Your Ballot
 

You may receive your ballot by mail, email or fax. You may also qualify to receive a ballot as early as 90 days before the election.

Because Washington votes by mail, you will automatically be mailed a ballot. If you register close to Election Day, or for some other reason did not receive your ballot, please request one as soon as possible to ensure enough time to return your ballot. Specify whether you would like to receive your ballot by mail, email or fax.

Contact your county elections department to:

  • Request a ballot or a replacement ballot;

  • Change how you receive your ballot (for example, by email instead of postal mail); or

  • Update your voter registration record (for example, update your mailing address).

If you believe you won't receive your regular ballot in time to vote, you can also request a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB), which is a blank write-in ballot. FWABs are available at consulates, embassies, from your Voting Assistance Officers, and online.

Being 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 to request a copy of the state Voters' Pamphlet be mailed to you, call (800) 448-4881 or email [email protected].

  • For personalized ballot measure and candidate information online, go to VoteWA.

  • For all ballot measures and candidates, visit the Online Voters' Guide.

  • For local races, visit the website for your county elections department.

Returning Your Ballot
 

You may return your ballot by mail, email or fax.

  • If you return your ballot by mail, you must sign and date the declaration no later than Election Day and return the ballot to your county elections department. It must be received within 13 days after a Primary or Special Election, and within 20 days after a General Election.

  • If you return your ballot by email or fax, it must be received by your county elections department by 8 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on Election Day. If you return the ballot by email, include the signed and dated declaration page, privacy sheet and ballot in the email as scanned or imaged attachments.

To confirm that your ballot was received, go to VoteWA, log in, and open the "ballot status" link.​​

 

New Washington Resident Return to top
 

Welcome to Washington! As a new resident of Washington State, you can register to vote online with VoteWA, by mail, in person, or when you get your new state driver license or ID at the Department of Licensing.

You may not vote in multiple states. Be sure to cancel any previous voter registration before you register in Washington. You do not have to declare a party affiliation when you register or vote in Washington. MORE>>

Top 2 Primary
 

Almost all other states in the country conduct nominating Primary Elections. In these states, the purpose of the Primary is to select each political party's nominee who will represent the party in the General Election.

In Washington's Top 2 Primary, the purpose is to narrow the number of candidates down to two, regardless of a candidate's party preference. MORE>>

Voting by Mail
 

Washington State votes by mail. Mail elections are an alternative to polling place voting. Prior to each election, a ballot is mailed to every eligible registered voter. MORE>>

Being 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 [email protected].

  • For personalized ballot measure and candidate information online, go to VoteWA.

  • For all ballot measures and candidates, visit the Online Voters' Guide.

  • For local races, visit the website for your county elections department.

Seasonal Resident (Snowbirds) Return to top

You can vote in Washington State even if you are away from home during an election.

To make sure you receive your ballot, update your seasonal mailing address with your county elections department. Provide the first and last days you’ll receive mail at this address, and your county will send your ballot to this address each year between those dates.

Although your mailing address can be anywhere in the world, your residential address must remain in Washington State. For more information on voting residency, visit Residency Requirements. ​

Being an informed voter
 

Information about ballot measures and candidates:

  • The state General Election Voters’ Pamphlet is mailed to every household in Washington. If you need to request a copy of the state Voters’ Pamphlet be mailed to you, call (800) 448-4881 or email [email protected].

  • For personalized ballot measure and candidate information online, go to VoteWA.

  • For all ballot measures and candidates, visit the Online Voters' Guide.

  • For local races, visit the website for your county elections department.

College Voters Return to top
 

As a student, you probably change your address more frequently than the average voter. Remember to update your voter registration every time you move. You can update your address online with VoteWA, by mail or in person.

Residential Address
 

Your residential address determines which candidates and measures will be on your ballot. This must be a Washington State address that you consider home.

If you live on campus and provide a campus address as your residential address, be sure to list your dormitory and room number; a PO Box is not a residential address.

For more information on voting residency, visit Residency Requirements​.

Mailing Address
 

Your mailing address is where your ballot will be mailed. It does not impact the ballot measures and candidates that will appear on your ballot. Your ballot can be sent to you anywhere in the world. For example, you may list your parents’ home as your residential address, but a PO Box at college as your mailing address.

Out-of-State Students
 

You may register to vote in Washington if you have lived in the state for at least 30 days and have established a residential address in the state. Please note that Washington State residency requirements for voting are not the same as residency for in-state tuition purposes. You may vote in only one state. If you were previously registered in another state, cancel your registration in that state when you register in Washington.

Study Abroad
 

You can vote from anywhere in the world! Update your mailing address online with VoteWA or contact your county elections department.
 

Voting in Two Places is a Felony
 

You may only vote once; you may only vote in one county in one state. Keep this in mind when deciding if you want to list your home or school address for your voter registration. Should you accidentally receive two ballots, vote only once.

For information about the College Civics Program, visit the Civics page.

 

Voters with Disabilities Return to top
 

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.


Voting centers must meet all of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. View the ADA checklist for voting centers for more information.
 

To request a reasonable accommodation or assistance, contact your county elections department.
 

Accessible Voters’ Pamphlet
 

Accessible formats of the voters' pamphlet are available online. If you wish to join the subscription list to receive a copy on CD or USB drive of the Voters' Pamphlet, please contact the voter hotline at (800) 448-4881 or email [email protected]. Provide your preferred format, name, telephone number, and mailing address.
 

Accessible Voting Units
 

Accessible voting units (AVUs) are available starting 18 days before Election Day, until 8 p.m. on Election Day. For specific dates that AVU voting is available at your county elections department, see voter dates and deadlines. Every county must have at least one AVU at each voting center. AVUs must be wheelchair-accessible and screened from other voters to maintain privacy.
An AVU presents your ballot on a monitor. You select choices by touching the screen, using a select wheel, or by using a tool. You can use headphones to listen to the text and prompts on your ballot. Most machines can also be fitted with sip-and- puff tools. MORE>>
 

Assistance Voting Your Ballot
 

Anyone may assist you in voting your ballot. At a voting center, you may ask for two election workers – one from each political party – to help you fill out your ballot.
A person who has a guardian may still be able to vote and should not be turned away from a voting center by an election worker. Guardianship papers indicate if an individual has the right to vote. If there is ever doubt about a person’s voting status, the person should be issued a provisional ballot to vote with. MORE>>
 

Accessibility Concerns
 

If you are concerned about the accessibility of a voting center, contact your county elections department or contact the Office of the Secretary of State's Elections Division at (800) 448- 4881.
 

Additional Information for Voters with Disabilities
 

Accessibility Services and Information

Accessibility in Your County

Other Accessibility Resources


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