How ballots are handled
Your ballot travels a long way from the time it’s printed to the time it’s mailed to you and returned to our office.
Your ballot packet is assembled about four weeks prior to Election Day. Ballot packets include a ballot, security and return envelopes, and any informational inserts.
If you are a local voter your ballot is mailed to you three weeks before Election Day. If you are overseas or a service voter, your ballot is mailed 45 days before a primary or general election and 30 days before special elections to allow more time for the ballot to reach you.
You have until Election Day to vote and return your ballot. Your ballot must be returned to a ballot drop box no later than 8 p.m. on election night, or be postmarked by the U.S. Postal Service no later than Election Day.
Your ballot packet is returned to our office where a mail sorting machine scans the barcode for your information and takes a picture of the signature on the envelope. This signature will then be used in the verification process. Watch ballot sorting live during an election.
State law requires that we compare your signature on the ballot envelope with your signature on file before we can count your ballot. If the signatures match, we can count your ballot. If the signatures do not match or is missing, we contact you by mail, email, and phone letting you know how to take care of the issue. You have until the day before the election is certified to respond. Watch signature verification live during an election.
Working with a batch of ballots, we first remove all the security envelopes from the return envelopes. This is the point where we separate the identity of the voter from the ballot inside the envelope to ensure your votes remain private. We then remove all ballots from the security envelopes. Finally, we inspect the ballot to see if the votes as marked by the voter can be properly read by our scanning equipment. We flag ballots that need additional review and send all ballots to another workgroup to be scanned. Watch ballot opening live during an election.
Once your ballot is ready for counting, we scan the ballots and store the images on a secure and closed system. The tabulation server is secured in a room with security cameras, biometric-controlled access, and tamper evident seals. Watch ballot scanning live during an election.
After ballots are scanned we review the electronic images for any stray marks, unclear voter intent or corrections. We review ballots in teams of two people to ensure the votes are counted correctly. We use the Voter Intent Manual created by the Office of the Secretary of State to ensure we are counting your votes as you intended. Using this guide ensures our voter intent decisions are made consistently from team to team and election to election. Watch ballot review live during an election.
Tabulation occurs at 8 p.m. on election night and results are made public soon after. Scanning and counting continue daily until all eligible votes are counted and the election is certified. Watch ballot scanning live during an election.
Phone: 206-296-VOTE (8683)
TTY: Relay 711
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