Voting is an important part of any democratic society. It’s the main way to be included in your country’s government and make sure it best represents the people. The more people who vote, the more accurately our laws and lawmakers will reflect who we are and what we want. However, the elections process, and the ballots themselves, can seem confusing and inaccessible at times. Here’s a quick walk-through to help you understand the process in Washington state so it’s easy for you to have your voice heard.
In order to vote, first you must register. If you don't know how, you can register very easily online.
Voting in King County is done by mail. Voters registered in King County don’t have to do anything special to receive their ballots: they’ll show up automatically in the mail. They’re sent out 20 days before each election—and a little sooner than that for overseas and military voters. But if you don’t receive yours, check that you’re registered with the correct address.
If your address is correct but you didn’t get a ballot, or if it was lost or damaged, fill one out online then print and submit it.
Once you have your ballot in hand, the next step is to fill it out. If you have already chosen your candidates and know how you’ll vote on measures, follow the instructions on the ballot to correctly mark each choice. If you still need to make a decision, you can find candidate information in a lot of places; local newspapers and blogs are a good source. Also take a look at the Local Voters’ Pamphlet, which is available on the King County Elections page. If you're not sure where you stand, the pamphlet gives you a rundown of each of the items on the ballot. Yes, it can be a little dry, but it's usually the quickest and most straightforward way to familiarize yourself with the candidates and issues.
Once you’re done, follow the instructions to seal your ballot in its envelope properly. You can drop your ballot off in any dropbox, or mail it. If you choose to mail your ballot, it requires a first-class stamp and must be postmarked by election day.
Pierce County residents follow the same procedure as King County residents for mailing in ballots. However, they have one additional option, as they are the only county in Washington to offer in-person voting as well. Dropboxes and in-person voting locations are located around the county.
If your ballot doesn’t arrive or is lost or damaged, you can request a replacement be mailed to you.
Other Washington Counties
If you live in another county in Washington, you can track down your elections department at the Washington Secretary of State website.
Determining Your Voting District
Many federal and state elections are eligible for participation by all voters in the state. But others are only voted on by people within a certain district. You live in multiple election districts. Each U.S. representative has one, along with state legislators. Other more local officials may have their own voting districts, too, like port officials or school board members. And none have the same boundaries!
To make things easy, if you are registered to vote with your correct address, your ballot will be pre-printed with the elections you’re eligible to vote in. However, you probably want to know your districts in advance, so you can research and choose your candidate more easily.
- Pierce County: Put your address in at their Info By Address tool and find out each of your districts.
- King County: Use their FindMyDistrict tool.
Voters With Disabilities
Voters with disabilities can by law request reasonable accommodations or assistance. Some examples of this assistance are curbside voting, voting stations designed for those with disabilities, and voter assistance. All voting centers must meet ADA requirements. To request assistance or check to see whether your local center already has accommodations, use the local map and click your county to find the phone and email for your contact person.
Though King County is a vote-by-mail-only county, they do have Accessible Voting Centers available for those who need to vote in person.
Overseas and Military Voters
If you are a U.S. citizen living overseas, whether due to service or another reason, you can vote online. At the Federal Voting Assistance Program, you can register to vote, along with requesting, getting, and tracking your ballot, all on one site.
The best time to apply for an absentee ballot is in January of each year, or at least 90 days before Election Day.