Some American voters have always been procrastinators. They record the debates, meaning to get to them later, and still have them unwatched on their DVR as Election Day dawns.
They decided their picks for president and governor weeks ago, but need to check the Voter Pamphlet for that down-ballot race for the Legislature or county commission. Over a second cup of coffee this morning, they try to remember where they put the pamphlet.
Or they’ve been meaning to register to vote – maybe for years – but it kept slipping their mind until that big headline on this morning’s front page left no doubt time is running out.
As of Monday evening, nearly three-fourths of Washington’s voters had returned ballots – nearly 200,000 more than the total cast in 2016. Spokane County and seven other counties actually topped the ballot count from four years ago last Friday.
But hundreds of thousands still remain out, and eligible residents who aren’t registered can do so and cast a ballot before 8 p.m. tonight.
It’s also true that a ballot cast today counts just as much as one mailed in three weeks ago. But only if you follow the rules. Here are tips for procrastinators:
Return envelopes for Washington ballots are postage paid, but they must be postmarked by this evening. If they have the proper postmark and are received by Nov. 23, they’ll be processed and those votes added to the totals.
You may have heard ballots must be in the elections office by tonight. That’s true in some states, such as Idaho, but not Washington. But to be sure they have today’s postmark, you should consider taking them to a post office, and asking they be postmarked or hand canceled. Don’t drop them in a blue postal collection box after the time posted for the final delivery.
You can also cut out the U.S. Postal Service as the middle man by using an official drop box. It must be in by 8 p.m.; although if there’s a line at the drop box, anyone in line by 8 p.m. will be allowed to deposit their ballot.
Remember, whether you mail your ballot or put it in a drop box, you must put it in the security envelope first, then put it in the outer envelope, fill in your name on the space for the oath that says you’re eligible to vote, and SIGN THE OUTER ENVELOPE.
The drop box is not a substitute for the outer envelope. Signing the security envelope and sticking it in a drop box will get your ballot to the elections office but they won’t process it unless they can track you down and have you fill out forms to verify you cast that ballot. Envelopes with ballots but no signatures that can’t be traced back to voters for correction are set aside and not counted.
Washington has more than 500 drop boxes around the state. Check the list that accompanies this story for the locations in Spokane County and contact information for other Eastern Washington counties. Voters aren’t required to use the drop box closest to their home, they can use any one.
If you are eligible to vote – an American citizen, at least 18 years old, not disqualified by a court order and not currently under state Department of Corrections supervision for a felony conviction – but not registered, you can sign up by 8 p.m. tonight and cast a ballot right away. But you’ll have to do it in person.
In Spokane County, you can register at the Veterans Arena, 720 W Mallon Ave., where the Elections Office has temporarily moved its main Voter Service Center, or at CenterPlace Event Center, 2426 Discovery Place, in Spokane Valley. In most other counties, the Voter Service Center is at the county elections office.
Residents of Kootenai County in Idaho will head to the polls today. Polling places are open from 8 a.m. to 8 a.m., and voters can find their polling place by visiting kcgov.us under the elections tab. County residents who have not registered to vote and are eligible can do so at their polling place on Election Day, with a valid photo ID and dated proof of address. Voters who requested absentee ballots and who have not yet returned them must take them to the county elections office, 1808 N. Third St., in Coeur d’Alene, by 8 p.m. today.
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