Friends, it’s almost over.
After the better part of a year of speculation, campaigning, a bruising primary and the parade of forums and debates, the general election is upon us. King County Elections mailed ballots out on Oct. 12, giving voters three weeks to make their choices in a slate of contests that will determine the leadership in King County, Seattle and surrounding cities for the next four years.
In some cases, the choices could not be starker. In quite a few cities, candidates are running unopposed.
However, the process of registering to vote and voting remain the same.
Washington State wants you to vote.
Here, you can register online, by mail or in person. If you choose either of the two remote options, your registration must be received eight days before Election Day, which is Nov. 2 for the general election. To be eligible to vote, you have to be 18 years old, a citizen of the United States, a legal resident of Washington State, not disqualified due to a court order and not under Department of Corrections supervision for a Washington felony conviction.
As of Jan. 1, 2022, people convicted of a felony will have their right to vote restored automatically as long as they are no longer in prison or community custody.
The state legislature approved same-day voter registration in 2018, opening the door for every eligible voter to participate if they can get to a polling station before 8 p.m. That change was a big shift for new residents, renters forced to move before election day and people without stable addresses, such as people experiencing homelessness, who were no longer effectively disenfranchised by economic or logistical circumstances.
People experiencing homelessness can use shelter addresses or even street corners to register to vote.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic threw a spanner in the works of in-person registration and voting, but the Elections office has a solution. King County Elections offers six locations where people can register to vote: Bellevue College Cafeteria, the Federal Way Performing Arts & Event Center, Kenmore City Hall, the Kent Centennial Center, King County Elections offices in Renton and the Lumen Field Event Center in Seattle.
In all locations, people are expected to wear a mask that covers the nose and mouth, per state regulations and general safety guidelines.
Figuring out who you want to vote for can be difficult. But the actual process of voting is not. King County Elections will mail a ballot to registered voters. That makes it important for people to make sure that the address under which they registered to vote is up to date — particularly renters who have been forced to move for whatever reason.
That can be done online at the Secretary of State’s website.
If you forget or it’s too late and your ballot disappears into the ether, you can still vote in person or by printing your ballot at myvote.wa.gov.
If you want to mail your ballot, make sure it’s postmarked by election day. Mail delays in 2020 caused election officials to recommend getting those ballots in the mail earlier rather than later. If you’re cutting it close, use one of the voting drop boxes available at more than 70 locations in King County prior to 8 p.m. on Nov. 2.
Those drop boxes are very secure, fortified against the elements and, as Crosscut reporter Melissa Santos found, “rampaging SUVs.”
Once you’ve voted
When your ballot is collected, it goes to the King County Elections office to be counted. The Elections office has Fort Knox-esque security measures including biometric scans, key cards and cages for uncounted ballots that go all the way from the bottom floor to the ceiling to prevent nefarious access.
Ballots flow through specialized machines that scan barcodes and signatures at a rate of 40,000 per hour. A second pass through opens the ballots which are then removed by hand and passed through machines that second the information to secure servers. Those servers never touch the outside internet — the building is hardwired through thick cables that snake through the edifice.
Although Elections will drop results on Tuesday night, those results will not be final. Vote by mail means uncertainty on Election Day, with some contentious elections taking days or weeks to resolve. And if polling is to be believed, there are some very uncertain races this cycle.
But if you register to vote and cast your ballot on time, you will have a voice in those high-stakes contests, and you’ll be done. At least until the special election in December.
Ashley Archibald is a freelance journalist and former Real Change staff reporter. Her work can be found in the South Seattle Emerald, KNKX and the Urbanist.
Read more of the Oct. 13-19, 2021 issue.