Frequently Asked Questions

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I Voted.  Did you?

 

If you are registered to vote in Washington, there is no need to request a ballot. Confirm your registration at VoteWA.gov.

All counties conduct vote-by-mail elections. All vote-by-mail ballots (sometimes referred to as “absentee ballots”) are kept in secure storage while not being processed. Processing includes the verification of signatures and postmarks and removing the contents from the outer envelope. Ballots are secured in a locked room with numbered seals and a log sheet to detect any inappropriate access. Votes cast are tabulated after 8 p.m. PST on Election Day. Results are neither known nor reported before 8 p.m.

 

Can I verify that my ballot was received by The Elections Office?

Yes, check your ballot status at VoteWA.gov. Please allow 3 – 5 days after returning your ballot for your ballot status to be updated.

 

Where do I go for in-person voting?

Clark County, and the State of Washington, have been vote-by-mail since 2005.  There are no longer polling places.  The only voting center in Clark County is the Elections Office at 1408 Franklin Street in downtown Vancouver.

Whether a voter votes their ballot in the comfort of their home and deposits their ballot in a drop box or USPS mail box, or votes in our office, all ballots are processed in the same manner.

 

Are there witnesses while ballots are being counted to ensure there is no bias? 

Our work is monitored on site by certified observers appointed by the Republican and Democratic parties as well as The League of Women Voters.

We protect voter privacy by separating any identifying information from the ballot. First, the outer mailing envelope, which displays name and address and voter ID, is opened and separated from the security sleeve and the enclosed ballot. The outer mailing envelopes are set aside. Next, the ballots are removed from the security sleeves.

 

How does the elections department process my ballot securely? 

After you return your voted ballot:

  • Your signature on the outer return envelope is checked against the signature on file in your voter registration record.
  • If your signature matches then you are credited for voting. This ensures that only one ballot from each voter is counted.
  • The outer return envelope, which identifies you, is separated from the inner security sleeve, which contains your voted ballot. Once separated, your ballot cannot be traced back to you, therefore your vote remains a secret.

 

Why do vote totals change and races “flip” in the days following the election? 

When only approximately 50% of the votes are included in the preliminary results issued on Election Day, it is possible that races may change in the following days, as the remaining ballots are received and processed. Remember that Washington State counts postmarks on ballots. Races could widen, narrow or flip. This is normal and well within ranges of statistical probability.

 

The Rossi v. Gregoire election of 2004 has made me very skeptical. 

More than 500 election laws have changed since 2004.

  • ID must be confirmed prior to vote being counted.
  • Ballot tallying equipment is certified by an independent testing lab approved by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission before it can be used in Washington State.
  • County auditors must contact voters if their ballot signature does not match the voter’s registration signature.
  • The Secretary of State identifies and removes voters who are currently under the supervision of the Department of Corrections.
  • County Auditors must account for every ballot received. This reconciliation must be presented to the county canvassing board when the election is certified and made available to the public. If there is a discrepancy, the county auditor must provide an explanation.
  • Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory signature verification training is required by election staff comparing ballot signatures.
  • In-person disability access voting must be available 18 days before an election.
  • A random check of ballot tabulation equipment is performed upon mutual agreement of the political party observers or at the discretion of the county auditor. A manual count is compared to the tabulated results to verify the accuracy of the equipment.
  • County election procedures are reviewed by the Secretary of State. The auditor or county canvassing board must take corrective action for any problems uncovered during the review. The Secretary of State must verify that corrective action was taken.

 

How do we know that tabulating computers haven’t been hacked?

Tabulation computers are not connected to the internet. Tabulation equipment is certified by the Washington Secretary of State and the federal Election Assistance Commission. It is tested for resilience and accuracy by independent approved test laboratories. Before each election, a public Logic and Accuracy test is conducted to ensure that voting equipment is ready for use and properly prepared to tabulate results. During the Logic and Accuracy test, hash codes and software versions are verified by independent observers and the Office of the Secretary of State.

We also conduct a post-election day audit of the election. The tabulated results from approximately 600 ballots for one office are compared to a hand count of the physical ballots.

 

Is our election system secure from cyberattack?

The Washington State elections system has a layered defense to protect against both unintentional error and malicious actors seeking to interfere with election results. Security has many elements including physical and cybersecurity processes.

Paper ballots distributed, controlled, tallied and secured at the county level provide a hard-copy backup of all election results. This hard-copy paper trail makes tampering with votes “at the ballot box” very difficult.

The county computer tabulation system is located in a locked room with access limited to a few credentialed election administrators. The tabulation system is never connected to the internet and can’t be penetrated by Wi-Fi or cellular devices.

Tallied results are reported and displayed on the Secretary of State’s VoteWA election management system. The Washington State Military Department (WMD) monitors the uncertified election results transmitted from the counties to the State elections system to protect the integrity of this data against loss or corruption during transit. Once the data is accumulated, the WMD provides additional protection for the site displaying the election results.

Washington’s voter registration and election management system – VoteWA - is maintained and protected by Washington State’s Office of the Secretary of State (OSOS). The office has a robust Security Operations Center (SOC), which addresses cyber vulnerabilities with a team of cyber experts solely dedicated to the health of the state’s election systems. The SOC regularly reviews state and county voting equipment and computer systems for security vulnerabilities. The team is also tasked to ensure that county equipment meets current standards.

The Office of the Secretary of State has sensors to monitor threat activity on state and county systems. All 39 counties have “Albert sensors” installed. Security Information and Event Management Software (SIEM) allows the SOC to detect attempted unauthorized access into state and county networks.

In addition to monitoring for possible threats and intrusions, the SOC maintains technology replacement schedule to prevent vulnerable and end-of-life products from being used. The SOC also ensures state and county systems are patched with current releases.

The Office of the Secretary of State (OSOS) has significant firewalls to protect VoteWA from outside threats. In addition, OSOS ensures all access to centralized elections systems to require multi-factor authentication.

 

Are voter registration records accurate?

Washington’s voter registration system (VoteWA) is continuously updated by county election workers as well as the Office of the Secretary of State. The Office of the Secretary of State works with the Social Security Administration, the Department of Licensing, the Department of Health, the Department of Corrections, and the Office of the Administrator of the Courts to improve the accuracy of voter registration data.

The Secretary of State’s Office regularly provides counties with lists of voters who need to be removed from the voter rolls. These lists include deceased voters, voters in custody of the Department of Corrections, or voters who may be registered in more than one county.

Additionally, Washington State is a member of ERIC (Electronic Records Information Center) that compares voter registration and motor vehicle license data across 30 other states. ERIC uses sophisticated data matching software. ERIC reports can detect when a voter is registered in another state.

With all that said, we still rely on voters to keep their voter registration records updated. If you move or change your name, please contact our office at 564-397-2345 or update online at VoteWA.gov.

If a member of your household has passed away and a ballot is mailed to them, please mark the ballot as undeliverable and write, “deceased” on the envelope. If a ballot is mailed to your home in the name of someone who doesn’t reside with you, please mark the ballot as undeliverable. Put the envelope back in the mail. Do not put it in another envelope because we need the yellow label from the USPS to be affixed to the original envelope.

 

Can the election be rigged? 

Washington State uses paper ballots. For every election unique ballot types are created for each precinct whose voters are participating in that election. Any attempt to replicate or submit ballots would require a criminal to know the exact ballot type associated with each voter, the ability to forge individual signatures, and the ability to predict that the targeted registered voter wouldn’t cast a bonafide ballot.

Elections are managed by nonpartisan, professional, certified election officials. Audits, independent observation, and segregation of duties would not allow “rigging” to go undetected.

While ballots are being handled, work is monitored on-site by observers appointed by the Republican and Democratic parties. The League of Women Voters also has on-site observers representing the interests of unaffiliated voters.

The Logic and Accuracy test, post-election audit, and any required recounts all verify the accuracy and integrity of our tabulation system.

report from the University of California Los Angeles and the University of New Mexico found that vote-by-mail does not increase voter fraud.

There are very low rates of fraud in Vote-by-Mail states, as summarized by the Brookings Institute.

 

How do I know my vote choices are counted accurately?

Vote choices on a ballot are secret.

State law requires absolute secrecy of the ballot and no connection between the voter and how the voter voted.  Ballot inspectors remove the secrecy sleeve containing the ballot from the affidavit/return envelope. This step separates the identity of the voter from the voter’s ballot.

During the entire elections process, there are certified elections observers watching the process.  There is NEVER a time where only one person has access to a ballot that is not secured within an affidavit envelope.

State law requires secrecy of the ballot: RCW 29A.08.161 – No link between voter and ballot choice.   No record may be created or maintained by a state or local governmental agency or a political organization that identifies a voter with the information marked on the voter’s ballot, including the choice that a voter makes on a partisan primary ballot regarding political party affiliation.

 

What about people who just moved to Washington State and don’t yet have a Washington issued Driver’s License or Identification Card? 

These prospective voters will use a paper registration form or appear in person at our office. Paper forms must be received 8 days before election day. Print a registration now.

In-person registration can take place up until 8 pm Election Day. If you have any questions, please call Clark County Elections (564) 397-2345 or send an email to Elections@clark.wa.gov.

 

I registered to vote, but I hear that ballots have already been mailed. 

We will mail you a ballot to your current address along with voting instructions. During the final week of the election, when delivery and return times are shortened, we advise voters to print their own electronic replacement ballot on VoteWA.gov and return their voted ballot using a ballot drop box.

Please call us at (564) 397-2345 or send an email to Elections@clark.wa.gov with any questions.

 

Why did I receive two ballots?

You may receive an updated ballot because your residential address or name changed after the initial ballot mailing. Sometimes this happens when you interact with the Department of Licensing for drivers’ licensing services or if you have moved to a new address.

If you receive two ballots, please open both packets. One should have an insert indicating that it is a “Replacement/Reissued Ballot.” Please vote and return the replacement/reissued ballot. It has the correct races and precinct information for your new address.

If you make a mistake and vote the initial ballot and return it, the elections office will simply hold it and wait to see if you vote the other ballot. If the replacement ballot isn’t received, your initial ballot will be counted.

 

I left Washington State and will be voting in our new home state. How can I make sure my Washington State ballot is not mailed out or misused?

Please complete the Request for Cancellation form and return it to the Elections Office. If you need us to mail you the form, please contact us at (564) 397-2345. We cannot cancel your Washington State voter registration by phone. A signed cancellation form is required. Your signature on the form must match the signature in your voter registration record. Thank you for keeping your voter registration updated.

 

Is my voter registration coded by political party? I remember that I once had to state my party preference on the outside envelope. I worry about discrimination and privacy.

Voters don’t choose a political party when they register to vote in Washington State. Party preference is not recorded in the voter’s registration record. Ballots sent to voters are not coded by party. Voters are free to select any candidate during regular and special elections, regardless of party preference.

Presidential Primary. Every four years, the major political parties have a nominating process for U.S. President. The parties can choose to nominate by caucus or hold an election with ballots. When the parties nominate by election, they require voters who choose to participate in that nomination process to publicly declare their political party affiliation. This is the only election in which Washington's voters are required to mark and sign party declarations written by the major political parties. The party choice does not affect how voters make choices in Washington’s other regular elections. The Office of the Secretary of State is required to deliver election results to each major political party, including the party choice of participating voters. Once the election results have been transmitted, the voter’s party choice is removed from the voter’s file.

 

Should I use a ballot drop box?

Drop boxes are a very safe option for voting. Drop boxes are open 24 hours a day, beginning 18 days before election day. Election officials and the USPS recommend that voters use a ballot drop box during the final week of the election. They close promptly at 8 p.m. on election day. Don’t wait! Deposit your ballot as soon as possible. Find the closest Ballot Drop Box here.

 

How often are ballot drop boxes emptied?

They are emptied frequently, with some boxes emptied multiple times per day during the 18-day voting period. Our employees are nonpartisan professionals who work in teams of two, and always wear identification. You can ensure your ballot was received by logging into VoteWA.gov. Please allow three business days for us to process and upload your ballot into the election management system.

 

Is it safe to mail my ballot using the USPS postal service? 

Yes. If you’re an early voter, you should feel confident to return your ballot by mail. Postal carriers are reliable, unbiased professionals who handle ballots with the upmost integrity. Your ballot is treated as First Class mail. It’s postage-paid. No need to apply a stamp.

If you’re a late voter and plan to vote in the final week before election day, we recommend that you use a ballot drop box. Find the closest Ballot Drop Box here.

 

I want to hand my ballot directly to an election worker.

Thanks for trusting us. Ballot drop boxes bypass the USPS mail. You can deliver your ballot directly to election workers using a ballot drop box. We have 23 ballot drop box locations in Clark County. Chances are good that one is within a few miles of your home! Ballot drop boxes are monitored and collected by professional nonpartisan election workers.

Did you know that you can confirm that your ballot has been received by Clark County Elections by logging into VoteWA.gov? Please allow three business days for your ballot status to update.

We offer in-person assistance, but Washington State no longer has polling places.

Vote the paper ballot that is mailed to you, which should arrive between 11-18 days before the election. You may hand-deliver your ballot at an official ballot drop box. Clark County has 23 locations.

Clark County became a “vote from home” county in 2005. Counties no longer have voting machines on which you cast your vote. Anyone who comes to the election center to vote “in-person” will simply be handed another copy of the same ballot previously mailed. Please vote the ballot that was mailed to you.

Only travel to the election center if you need to register to vote or you don’t have a ballot. Even then, we would like you to call first at (564) 397-2345 because we may be able to help you online or by phone.

 

I’ve received ballots for another person. How does that happen? 

We rely on voters to keep their registration records up-to-date. A previous occupant or family member may have failed to tell us that they’ve moved. Until we know that a ballot is undeliverable, we continue to send ballots to the address on file. Please mark the ballot as undeliverable and return via the USPS marked, “No such person at this address” or “Please forward to {write new address}.” Mail this envelope, do not put it in another envelope. We need to have the yellow label from the USPS affixed to the original envelope.

 

I’ve told you many times that my child / spouse has moved out. Why do you keep sending these ballots to my home?

We rely on voters to keep their registration records up-to-date. Unless they are deceased, it’s the voter that needs to cancel their voter registration or update their new address.

 

Do people have to prove U.S. Citizenship when they register to vote? 

Voters attest in a signed statement that they are a U.S. Citizen and eligible to vote. Violations are subject to imprisonment of five years and/or a $10,000 fine. Violations have catastrophic consequences on any pending or future applications for citizenship or refugee status.

When registering to vote, registrants provide a driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security Number.

 

Are Felons Allowed to Vote?

If you were convicted of a felony in a Washington State court, your right to vote is restored automatically once you are no longer under the authority of DOC (in prison or on community custody). If you have questions about your status with DOC, call (800) 430-9674.

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

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

You do not need a certificate of discharge (COD) to have your voting rights restored.

You are not required to completely pay off your fines, restitution, or other legal financial obligations (LFOs) before you register to vote. However, your voting rights can be revoked if the sentencing court determines that you have failed to comply with the terms of your legal financial obligations.

We match Department of Correction records to voter registration records. Convicted felons who are under the supervision of the Department of Corrections are pended and given written notice before their voter registration is canceled.

It is a felony crime for a convicted felon under DOC supervision to attempt to vote. It is punishable by five years of imprisonment and / or $10,000 fine.

 

Deceased Voters

Each month, the Office of the Secretary of State receives a list of deceased people from the Department of Health, as well as the Social Security Administration. These lists are compared to the voter registration list and potential matches are flagged for research by the County Auditors’ offices. Voter registrations of deceased persons are usually canceled within a month. County Auditors may also remove registrations of deceased persons using published obituaries or written notices from relatives.

If a member of your household has passed away and a ballot is mailed to them, please mark the ballot as undeliverable and write, “deceased” on the envelope. Put the envelope back in the mail. Do not put it in another envelope because we need the yellow label from the USPS to be affixed to the original envelope. Or, give us a call at (564) 397-2345. We are truly sorry for your loss.

 

We received voters’ pamphlets, but no ballots.

Voters’ pamphlets are mailed about three weeks prior to the election. Ballots are mailed 18 days prior to the election. They are mailed separately.

These mailings are not related. Voters’ pamphlets are mailed to all households, regardless of voter registration. Ballots are only mailed to registered voters at specific addresses. The voters’ pamphlet is available online at ClarkVotes.org or VoteWA.gov

Ballots will start to be delivered 18 days before the election.

You can check your voter registration status at VoteWA.gov or by contacting the Elections Office by phone at (564) 397-2345 or by email at Elections@clark.wa.gov. To report irregularities in mail delivery please contact the Elections Office.

 

How long will it take to get election results?

We have an 18-day election period. However, statistically 50% of voters wait to vote until the last 48 hours. Therefore, when we release our first preliminary election results report at approximately 8:15 p.m. on Election Day, it generally represents 50% or less of the total vote.

When a ballot arrives at the election center, the envelope is scanned (checked-in) and the voter’s signature is verified. This process can take up to 3 business days depending on the amount of ballots received on a given day.

Preliminary election results are updated daily from election day through the following week. 

Washington is a “postmark” state. Ballots are accepted as on time as long as they have a USPS cancellation date of Election Day or earlier. Ballots may arrive many days after the election which include transfers from other counties and military and overseas ballots as well.

Washington gives voters time to cure their challenged ballots. The signature forms must be returned to the county elections department no later than 9 days after a special election, 13 days after a Primary and 20 days after a General Election. This is part of the reconciliation process.

 

If I’m on vacation, will my ballot be forwarded? 

If you know that you won’t be in town during the election, we can make special arrangements for delivery of your ballot. Please call us at (564) 397-2345 before you leave town.

Always update your voter registration. Visit VoteWA.gov

 

I keep getting unsolicited phone calls from campaigns. Why does your office give away my phone number?

A voter’s phone number and email address are protected information. We are not allowed to provide this data to outside parties. We only use this information to contact you when there is an issue with your ballot or with your voter registration.

 

I’ve moved, how do I change my address?

If you moved to a new address within Clark County

You may change your address using any of the following ways:

  • Update your address online at VoteWA.gov
  • Call the Elections Office at (564) 397-2345
  • Email elections@clark.wa.gov and provide your name, birth date, old residential address and new residential address
  • Mail a voter registration form or send a letter to the Elections Office and provide your name, birth date, old residential address, new residential address, and your signature. Mail the letter to:

Clark County Elections Office
PO Box 8815
Vancouver, WA 98666-8815

To change your mailing address, include your old and new mailing addresses. You need to also include your residential address even if your residential address is not changing.

If you moved to another county within Washington

You must register to vote in your new county. You may register either of the following ways: