Election officials predict the 2020 election will have record turn out and are urging voters to register, update their information and return their ballots as soon as possible.
Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said the auditor’s office had taken several precautions to protect both voters and elections staff from COVID-19, provide extra time for voting or ballot issues and provide additional space for questions that may come up with ballots or last-minute registration. Last week the office mailed more than 340,000 ballots. Dalton expects between 3,000 and 5,000 people to register to vote over the next few weeks.
She said the Elections Office was swamped during the primary and anticipates a flurry of activity in the last 48 hours of the election. She said the county will use the Spokane Arena instead of the Elections Office for the first time to make sure there is space for everyone to receive help and get their election questions answered.
“We’re just expecting a crush of people in those two days,” she said.
She said the best way voters can ensure their vote will be counted is register and update their information now.
How to register to vote
Those seeking to update their address or register to vote online or by mail must do so by Oct. 26. People can register to vote in person up until and on Election Day.
People can register online by going to vote.wa.gov. and must have a Washington State Driver’s license or state ID Card to fill out the form.
Those who need to register in person or don’t have a state driver’s license can go to one of several voter service centers and register in person, or mail a registration form that can be downloaded from the Washington Secretary of State’s Office website. The last four digits of a Social Security number can be used as identification to register to vote in place of a driver’s license or state ID Card.
People can register to vote at the Spokane County Elections Office at 1033 W. Gardner Ave. until Oct. 31. Starting Nov. 2 voters can register or change their address at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, which will be set up as a voter services center on Nov. 2 and 3.
Voters can also change their address or register as a new voter at CenterPlace in Spokane Valley, 2426 N Discovery Place. That location will be available as a service center from Oct. 16 until 8 p.m. on Election Day.
Dalton recommended voters who already are registered and recently moved to update their information as soon as possible. That can be completed online, over the mail or in person.
Once a voter receives their ballot, they must make sure to mark it clearly, place it in the security envelope and the return envelope.
Spokane County Elections Manager Mike McLaughlin said the ballot and return envelope must both be included for the vote to be processed.
In Spokane County, ballots without security or secrecy envelopes, nicknamed “naked ballots,” can still be processed.
Return envelopes, however are mandatory, because that is where voters sign their names and write the date they voted.
Once voters fill out their ballots and seal them inside envelopes, they can mail their ballots through the postal system or leave them in drop boxes. There are two drop boxes at the Spokane County Courthouse, one in front and one behind at the Spokane County Election’s Office, and a ballot drop box in front of most city halls in the county. There are also drop boxes in front of all public libraries.
Ballots must be left in drop boxes before 8 p.m. on Election Day.
If a voter can’t get to a drop box, they can also mail it through the U.S. Postal Service. Ballots don’t need a stamp and are required to by postmarked by Election Day. Dalton recommended mailing them the day before or earlier, and checking the pick up time on the post office box before leaving a ballot there to ensure their vote is post marked in time.
“The mail is safe,” she said. “It just might take longer to arrive.”
What to do if there is an issue with your ballot
Ballots were mailed Thursday and Friday of last week, and Dalton recommended voters contact the elections office if they do not receive it by Oct. 19.
She said some people may have the incorrect address in the system, or there could be some other issue that caused the ballot to not arrive at their current address.
If voters changed their address, their names or any other information with their registrations after that ballot already was mailed, second ballots will be mailed. Dalton said only one of the returned ballots will be counted.
She said voters also may be contacted by elections staff member if there is a problem with their signature.
Voters who had signature problems will receive a form in the mail, which they can fill out and return.
Dalton said on election night, likely less than half of the ballots will have been counted, and it will be weeks before there are definitive results.
“We’re anticipating procrastination,” she said. “Our expectation is we will have well under 50% counted on election night because in large part, those ballots won’t be there.”
Election results will filter in on election night and for the next few weeks thereafter, but won’t be verified until Nov. 24.
Dalton said Washington has been a vote-by-mail state for 15 years, and election staffs have experience sorting ballots and have processes to make sure each ballot is counted and to ensure no workers are alone with a ballot.
“If at all possible, we would appreciate if people voted early and got their ballots back to us,” she said. “If people have made up their mind, then go ahead and vote.”
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