OLYMPIA — National Voter Education Week is Oct. 5-9, and the Office of the Secretary of State is encouraging people to start getting ready for the Nov. 3 General Election.
Even though ballots won’t be mailed until Oct. 16 at the latest, voters can start preparing for the election now. From listing all the critical dates and deadlines to learning about the issues, measures, and candidates, voters have access to a wealth of information on the Secretary of State’s elections web page (sos.wa.gov/elections).
“Whether people are registering to vote for the first time or have been voting for years, it’s good to be prepared, especially for a General Election during a pandemic that is changing the way America is conducting elections,” said Lori Augino, elections director, Office of the Secretary of State. “During National Voter Education Week, we want to ensure people get their election information from trusted, reliable sources.”
The Office of the Secretary of State’s elections web page (sos.wa.gov/elections) offers Washingtonians myriad resources and information, including General Election dates and deadlines, profiles on local and state candidates, details on ballot measures, an Online Voter Guide, a map of and links to county elections offices, a vote-by-mail tutorial, and much more.
Augino offers the following tips to help people register to vote, prepare for the election, and mark and return their ballots on time:
Before your ballot arrives:
· If you’re not registered to vote, register today, either online, on paper, or in person.
Online: Visit VoteWA.gov and register using your Washington state driver’s license or I.D. To qualify for the Nov. 3 election, the deadline to register online is Oct. 26.
On paper: Print and fill out the form (available in 23 languages), and return it by mail or in-person at a county elections office or voting center. Forms must be received no later than Oct. 26. To locate your county’s elections office, click here.
In person: You can visit a county elections office or voting center and register. Contact a county elections office to inquire about hours of operation, curbside registration, and other minimal-contact services. You can register and vote in person at a county elections office through 8 p.m. election night.
· Check VoteWA.gov as soon as possible to ensure your address and other voter registration information is up to date.
· Begin researching the candidates and issues by logging in to VoteWA.gov to view your personalized voters’ guide.
When your ballot arrives:
· Even though Washington state has an 18-day voting period, don’t wait until Election Day to vote. Fill out your ballot, sign the postage-paid return envelope, and return it as soon as possible.
· Place your sealed ballot in an official USPS blue mailbox. The U.S. Postal Service recommends returning your ballot by mail at least a week before Election Day. Or, you may place it in any of the nearly 500 official ballot drop boxes statewide up to 8 p.m. election night. Find drop-box locations near you at VoteWA.gov.
Fun fact: About 90% of Washington voters live within 3 miles of a ballot drop box. In some more densely populated areas, 75% of voters live within 1 mile of a ballot drop box.
But take note: If you mail your completed ballot via U.S. mail, note the mailbox collection times. Ballots must be postmarked on or before Nov. 3 to be counted. The USPS recommends voters return their ballots via mail at least a week before Election Day.
“As Americans our right to vote is sacred, yet with that right comes responsibility,” said Augino. “The key to ensuring our votes matter is to not only know the candidates and understand the issues, but learn how, when, and where to cast our ballots. It is imperative that we encourage voters to get their election information from trusted, reliable sources.”
Each county’s elections office provides more localized information and can help voters request a ballot or other voting materials, make changes to their registration, and more. At sos.wa.gov/elections/auditors, visitors can click any county on the map and get an address and contact info, and link directly to that county’s website for more local details.
Many of these offices, including the Office of the Secretary of State, are on social media posting timely and accurate election information. To stay on top of key dates and updates, follow the Office of the Secretary of State on Twitter (@secstatewa), Facebook (WaSecretaryOfState), and Instagram (@secstatewa).
Washington’s Office of the Secretary of State oversees a number of areas within state government, including managing state elections, registering corporations and charities, and governing the use of the state flag and state seal. The office also manages the State Archives and the State Library, documents extraordinary stories in Washington’s history through Legacy Washington, oversees the Combined Fund Drive for charitable giving by state employees, and administers the state’s Address Confidentiality Program to help protect survivors of crime.
– Washington Secretary of State