Chapter 29A.40 RCW

ELECTIONS BY MAIL

Sections

29A.40.010Ballots by mail.
29A.40.020Request for ballot from an overseas voter or service voter.
29A.40.050Special ballots.
29A.40.070Date ballots mailedReplacement ballots.
29A.40.091Envelopes, declaration, and instructionsVoter's oathOverseas and service votersReturn of ballotsCounty auditor's name.
29A.40.100Observers.
29A.40.110Processing incoming ballots.
29A.40.130Record of voters issued a ballot and voters who returned a ballotPublic access.
29A.40.160Voting centers.


29A.40.010
Ballots by mail.

Each active registered voter of the state, overseas voter, and service voter shall automatically be issued a mail ballot for each general election, special election, or primary. Overseas voters and service voters are authorized to cast the same ballots, including those for special elections, as a registered voter of the state would receive under this chapter. Each active registered voter shall continue to receive a ballot by mail until the death or disqualification of the voter, cancellation of the voter's registration, or placing the voter on inactive status.

NOTES:

Notice to registered poll votersElections by mail2011 c 10: See note following RCW 29A.04.008.
Effective date1991 c 81: See note following RCW 29A.84.540.
Legislative intent1987 c 346: "By this act the legislature intends to combine and unify the laws and procedures governing absentee voting. These amendments are intended: (1) To clarify and incorporate into a single chapter of the Revised Code of Washington the preexisting statutes under which electors of this state qualify for absentee ballots under state law, federal law, or a combination of both state and federal law, and (2) to insure uniformity in the application, issuance, receipt, and canvassing of these absentee ballots. Nothing in this act is intended to impose any new requirement on the ability of the registered voters or electors of this state to qualify for, receive, or cast absentee ballots in any primary or election." [ 1987 c 346 § 1.]
Effective date1987 c 346: "This act shall take effect on January 1, 1988." [ 1987 c 346 § 25.]
Severability1986 c 167: See note following RCW 29A.16.040.
Effective dateSeverability1977 ex.s. c 361: See notes following RCW 29A.16.040.



29A.40.020
Request for ballot from an overseas voter or service voter.

(1) A request for a ballot from an overseas voter or service voter must include the address of the last residence in the state of Washington.
(2) No person, organization, or association may distribute any ballot materials that contain a return address other than that of the appropriate county auditor.

NOTES:

Notice to registered poll votersElections by mail2011 c 10: See note following RCW 29A.04.008.



29A.40.050
Special ballots.

(1) County auditors shall provide special absentee ballots to be used for state primary or state general elections. An auditor shall provide a special absentee ballot only to a registered voter who completes an application stating that she or he will be unable to vote and return a regular ballot by normal mail delivery within the period provided for regular ballots.
A special absentee ballot may not be requested more than ninety days before the applicable state primary or general election. The special absentee ballot will list the offices and measures, if known, scheduled to appear on the state primary or general election ballot. The voter may use the special absentee ballot to write in the name of any eligible candidate for each office and vote on any measure.
(2) The county auditor shall include a listing of any candidates who have filed before the time of the application for offices that will appear on the ballot at that primary or election and a list of any issues that have been referred to the ballot before the time of the application.
(3) Write-in votes on special absentee ballots must be counted in the same manner provided by law for the counting of other write-in votes. The county auditor shall process and canvass the special absentee ballots provided under this section in the same manner as other ballots under this chapter and chapter 29A.60 RCW.
(4) A voter who requests a special absentee ballot under this section may also request a regular ballot. If the regular absentee ballot is properly voted and returned, the special absentee ballot is void, and the county auditor shall reject it in whole when special absentee ballots are canvassed.

NOTES:

Notice to registered poll votersElections by mail2011 c 10: See note following RCW 29A.04.008.
Effective date1991 c 81: See note following RCW 29A.84.540.
Legislative intentEffective date1987 c 346: See notes following RCW 29A.40.010.



29A.40.070
Date ballots mailed—Replacement ballots.

(1) Except where a recount or litigation is pending, the county auditor must mail ballots to each voter at least eighteen days before each primary or election, and as soon as possible for all subsequent registration changes.
(2) Except where a recount or litigation is pending, the county auditor must mail ballots to each service and overseas voter at least thirty days before each special election, and at least forty-five days before each primary or general election, or any special election that involves federal office. A request for a ballot made by an overseas or service voter after that day must be processed immediately.
(3) A registered voter may obtain a replacement ballot if the ballot is destroyed, spoiled, lost, or not received by the voter. The voter may obtain the ballot by telephone request, by mail, electronically, or in person. The county auditor shall keep a record of each request for a replacement ballot.
(4) Each county auditor shall certify to the office of the secretary of state the dates the ballots were mailed, or the reason and date the ballots will be mailed if the ballots were not mailed timely.
(5) Failure to mail ballots as prescribed in this section does not by itself provide a basis for an election contest or other legal challenge to the results of a primary, general election, or special election.
[ 2013 c 11 § 48. Prior: 2011 c 349 § 16; 2011 c 10 § 38; 2006 c 344 § 13; 2004 c 266 § 13; prior: 2003 c 162 § 2; 2003 c 111 § 1007; prior: 1987 c 54 § 1; 1977 ex.s. c 361 § 56; 1965 ex.s. c 103 § 5; 1965 c 9 § 29.30.075; prior: 1949 c 161 § 10, part; 1947 c 234 § 2, part; 1935 c 26 § 1, part; 1921 c 178 § 4, part; 1907 c 209 § 8, part; Rem. Supp. 1949 § 5185, part. Formerly RCW 29.36.270, 29.30.075.]

NOTES:

Effective date2011 c 349: See note following RCW 29A.04.255.
Notice to registered poll votersElections by mail2011 c 10: See note following RCW 29A.04.008.
Effective date2006 c 344 §§ 1-16 and 18-40: See note following RCW 29A.04.311.
Effective date2004 c 266: See note following RCW 29A.04.575.
Policy2003 c 162: "It is the policy of the state of Washington that individuals voting absentee and mail ballots receive their ballots in a timely and consistent manner before each election. Since many voters in Washington state have come to rely upon absentee and mail voting, mailing the ballots in a timely manner is critical in order to maximize participation by every eligible voter." [ 2003 c 162 § 1.]
Effective dateSeverability1977 ex.s. c 361: See notes following RCW 29A.16.040.



29A.40.091
Envelopes, declaration, and instructions—Voter's oath—Overseas and service voters—Return of ballots—County auditor's name.

(1) The county auditor shall send each voter a ballot, a security envelope in which to conceal the ballot after voting, a larger envelope in which to return the security envelope, a declaration that the voter must sign, and instructions on how to obtain information about the election, how to mark the ballot, and how to return the ballot to the county auditor.
(2) The voter must swear under penalty of perjury that he or she meets the qualifications to vote, and has not voted in any other jurisdiction at this election. The declaration must clearly inform the voter that it is illegal to vote if he or she is not a United States citizen; it is illegal to vote if he or she has been convicted of a felony and has not had his or her voting rights restored; and it is illegal to cast a ballot or sign a ballot declaration on behalf of another voter. The ballot materials must provide space for the voter to sign the declaration, indicate the date on which the ballot was voted, and include a telephone number.
(3) For overseas and service voters, the signed declaration constitutes the equivalent of a voter registration. Return envelopes for overseas and service voters must enable the ballot to be returned postage free if mailed through the United States postal service, United States armed forces postal service, or the postal service of a United States foreign embassy under 39 U.S.C. 3406.
(4) The voter must be instructed to either return the ballot to the county auditor no later than 8:00 p.m. the day of the election or primary, or mail the ballot to the county auditor with a postmark no later than the day of the election or primary. Service and overseas voters must be provided with instructions and a privacy sheet for returning the ballot and signed declaration by fax or email. A voted ballot and signed declaration returned by fax or email must be received by 8:00 p.m. on the day of the election or primary.
(5) The county auditor's name may not appear on the security envelope, the return envelope, or on any voting instructions or materials included with the ballot if he or she is a candidate for office during the same year.

NOTES:

Effective date2011 c 349: See note following RCW 29A.04.255.
Notice to registered poll votersElections by mail2011 c 10: See note following RCW 29A.04.008.
Effective date2005 c 246: See note following RCW 10.64.140.



29A.40.100
Observers.

County auditors must request that observers be appointed by the major political parties to be present during the processing of ballots at the counting center. County auditors have discretion to also request that observers be appointed by any campaigns or organizations. The absence of the observers will not prevent the processing of ballots if the county auditor has requested their presence.

NOTES:

Notice to registered poll votersElections by mail2011 c 10: See note following RCW 29A.04.008.



29A.40.110
Processing incoming ballots.

(1) The opening and subsequent processing of return envelopes for any primary or election may begin upon receipt. The tabulation of absentee ballots must not commence until after 8:00 p.m. on the day of the primary or election.
(2) All received return envelopes must be placed in secure locations from the time of delivery to the county auditor until their subsequent opening. After opening the return envelopes, the county canvassing board shall place all of the ballots in secure storage until processing. Ballots may be taken from the inner envelopes and all the normal procedural steps may be performed to prepare these ballots for tabulation.
(3) The canvassing board, or its designated representatives, shall examine the postmark on the return envelope and signature on the declaration before processing the ballot. The ballot must either be received no later than 8:00 p.m. on the day of the primary or election, or must be postmarked no later than the day of the primary or election. All personnel assigned to verify signatures must receive training on statewide standards for signature verification. Personnel shall verify that the voter's signature on the ballot declaration is the same as the signature of that voter in the registration files of the county. Verification may be conducted by an automated verification system approved by the secretary of state. A variation between the signature of the voter on the ballot declaration and the signature of that voter in the registration files due to the substitution of initials or the use of common nicknames is permitted so long as the surname and handwriting are clearly the same.
(4) If the postmark is missing or illegible, the date on the ballot declaration to which the voter has attested determines the validity, as to the time of voting, for that ballot. For overseas voters and service voters, the date on the declaration to which the voter has attested determines the validity, as to the time of voting, for that ballot. Any overseas voter or service voter may return the signed declaration and voted ballot by fax or email by 8:00 p.m. on the day of the primary or election, and the county auditor must use established procedures to maintain the secrecy of the ballot.

NOTES:

Reviser's note: This section was amended by 2011 c 10 § 41, 2011 c 348 § 4, and by 2011 c 349 § 18, each without reference to the other. All amendments are incorporated in the publication of this section under RCW 1.12.025(2). For rule of construction, see RCW 1.12.025(1).
Effective date2011 c 349: See note following RCW 29A.04.255.
Notice to registered poll votersElections by mail2011 c 10: See note following RCW 29A.04.008.
Effective date1991 c 81: See note following RCW 29A.84.540.
Legislative intentEffective date1987 c 346: See notes following RCW 29A.40.010.
Effective dateSeverability1977 ex.s. c 361: See notes following RCW 29A.16.040.
County canvassing board, meeting to process ballots, canvass returns: RCW 29A.60.160.
Unsigned ballot declarations: RCW 29A.60.165.



29A.40.130
Record of voters issued a ballot and voters who returned a ballot—Public access.

Each county auditor shall maintain in his or her office, open for public inspection, a record of all voters issued a ballot and all voters who returned a ballot. For each primary, special election, or general election, any political party, committee, or person may request a list of all registered voters who have or have not voted. Such requests shall be handled as public records requests pursuant to chapter 42.56 RCW.

NOTES:

Notice to registered poll votersElections by mail2011 c 10: See note following RCW 29A.04.008.
Effective date1991 c 81: See note following RCW 29A.84.540.
Legislative intentEffective date1987 c 346: See notes following RCW 29A.40.010.



29A.40.160
Voting centers. (Effective until June 30, 2019.)

(1) Each county auditor shall open a voting center each primary, special election, and general election. The voting center shall be open during business hours during the voting period, which begins eighteen days before, and ends at 8:00 p.m. on the day of, the primary, special election, or general election.
(2) The voting center must provide voter registration materials, ballots, provisional ballots, disability access voting units, sample ballots, instructions on how to properly vote the ballot, a ballot drop box, and voters' pamphlets, if a voters' pamphlet has been published.
(3) The voting center must be accessible to persons with disabilities. Each state agency and entity of local government shall permit the use of any of its accessible facilities as voting centers when requested by a county auditor.
(4) The voting center must provide at least one voting unit certified by the secretary of state that provides access to individuals who are blind or visually impaired, enabling them to vote with privacy and independence.
(5) No person may interfere with a voter attempting to vote in a voting center. Interfering with a voter attempting to vote is a violation of RCW 29A.84.510.
(6) Before opening the voting center, the voting equipment shall be inspected to determine if it has been properly prepared for voting. If the voting equipment is capable of direct tabulation of each voter's choices, the county auditor shall verify that no votes have been registered for any issue or office, and that the device has been sealed with a unique numbered seal at the time of final preparation and logic and accuracy testing. A log must be made of all device numbers and seal numbers.
(7) The county auditor shall require any person desiring to vote at a voting center to either sign a ballot declaration or provide identification.
(a) The signature on the declaration must be compared to the signature on the voter registration record before the ballot may be counted. If the voter registered using a mark, or can no longer sign his or her name, the election officers shall require the voter to be identified by another registered voter.
(b) The identification must be valid photo identification, such as a driver's license, state identification card, student identification card, tribal identification card, or employer identification card. Any individual who desires to vote in person but cannot provide identification shall be issued a provisional ballot, which shall be accepted if the signature on the declaration matches the signature on the voter's registration record.
(8) Provisional ballots must be accompanied by a declaration and security envelope, as required by RCW 29A.40.091, and space for the voter's name, date of birth, current and former registered address, reason for the provisional ballot, and disposition of the provisional ballot. The voter shall vote and return the provisional ballot at the voting center. The voter must be provided information on how to ascertain whether the provisional ballot was counted and, if applicable, the reason why the vote was not counted.
(9) Any voter may take printed or written material into the voting device to assist in casting his or her vote. The voter shall not use this material to electioneer and shall remove it when he or she leaves the voting center.
(10) If any voter states that he or she is unable to cast his or her votes due to a disability, the voter may designate a person of his or her choice, or two election officers, to enter the voting booth and record the votes as he or she directs.
(11) No voter is entitled to vote more than once at a primary, special election, or general election. If a voter incorrectly marks a ballot, he or she may be issued a replacement ballot.
(12) A voter who has already returned a ballot but requests to vote at a voting center shall be issued a provisional ballot. The canvassing board shall not count the provisional ballot if it finds that the voter has also voted a regular ballot in that primary, special election, or general election.
(13) The county auditor must prevent overflow of each ballot drop box to allow a voter to deposit his or her ballot securely. Ballots must be removed from a ballot drop box by at least two people, with a record kept of the date and time ballots were removed, and the names of people removing them. Ballots from drop boxes must be returned to the counting center in secured transport containers. A copy of the record must be placed in the container, and one copy must be transported with the ballots to the counting center, where the seal number must be verified by the county auditor or a designated representative. All ballot drop boxes must be secured at 8:00 p.m. on the day of the primary, special election, or general election.
(14) Any voter who is inside or in line at the voting center at 8:00 p.m. on the day of the primary, special election, or general election must be allowed to vote.
(15) For each primary, special election, and general election, the county auditor may provide election services at locations in addition to the voting center. The county auditor has discretion to establish which services will be provided at the additional locations, and which days and hours the locations will be open, except that the county auditor must establish a minimum of one ballot drop box per fifteen thousand registered voters in the county and a minimum of one ballot drop box in each city, town, and census-designated place in the county with a post office.

NOTES:

Notice to registered poll votersElections by mail2011 c 10: See note following RCW 29A.04.008.

Voting centers. (Effective June 30, 2019.)

(1) Each county auditor shall open a voting center each primary, special election, and general election. The voting center shall be open during business hours during the voting period, which begins eighteen days before, and ends at 8:00 p.m. on the day of, the primary, special election, or general election.
(2) Each county auditor shall register voters in person at each of the following locations in the county:
(a) At the county auditor's office;
(b) At the division of elections, if located in a separate city from the county auditor's office; and
(c) For each presidential general election, at a voting center in each city in the county with a population of one hundred thousand or greater, which does not have a voting center as required in (a) or (b) of this subsection. A voting center opened pursuant to this subsection (2) is not required to be open on the Sunday before the presidential election.
(3) Voting centers shall be located in public buildings or buildings that are leased by a public entity including, but not limited to, libraries.
(4) Each voting center, and at least one of the other locations designated by the county auditor to allow voters to register in person pursuant to RCW 29A.08.140(1)(b), must provide voter registration materials, ballots, provisional ballots, disability access voting units, sample ballots, instructions on how to properly vote the ballot, a ballot drop box, and voters' pamphlets, if a voters' pamphlet has been published.
(5) Each voting center must be accessible to persons with disabilities. Each state agency and entity of local government shall permit the use of any of its accessible facilities as voting centers when requested by a county auditor.
(6) Each voting center must provide at least one voting unit certified by the secretary of state that provides access to individuals who are blind or visually impaired, enabling them to vote with privacy and independence.
(7) No person may interfere with a voter attempting to vote in a voting center. Interfering with a voter attempting to vote is a violation of RCW 29A.84.510.
(8) Before opening the voting center, the voting equipment shall be inspected to determine if it has been properly prepared for voting. If the voting equipment is capable of direct tabulation of each voter's choices, the county auditor shall verify that no votes have been registered for any issue or office, and that the device has been sealed with a unique numbered seal at the time of final preparation and logic and accuracy testing. A log must be made of all device numbers and seal numbers.
(9) The county auditor shall require any person desiring to vote at a voting center to either sign a ballot declaration or provide identification.
(a) The signature on the declaration must be compared to the signature on the voter registration record before the ballot may be counted. If the voter registered using a mark, or can no longer sign his or her name, the election officers shall require the voter to be identified by another registered voter.
(b) The identification must be valid photo identification, such as a driver's license, state identification card, student identification card, tribal identification card, or employer identification card. Any individual who desires to vote in person but cannot provide identification shall be issued a provisional ballot, which shall be accepted if the signature on the declaration matches the signature on the voter's registration record.
(10) Provisional ballots must be accompanied by a declaration and security envelope, as required by RCW 29A.40.091, and space for the voter's name, date of birth, current and former registered address, reason for the provisional ballot, and disposition of the provisional ballot. The voter shall vote and return the provisional ballot at the voting center. The voter must be provided information on how to ascertain whether the provisional ballot was counted and, if applicable, the reason why the vote was not counted.
(11) Any voter may take printed or written material into the voting device to assist in casting his or her vote. The voter shall not use this material to electioneer and shall remove it when he or she leaves the voting center.
(12) If any voter states that he or she is unable to cast his or her votes due to a disability, the voter may designate a person of his or her choice, or two election officers, to enter the voting booth and record the votes as he or she directs.
(13) No voter is entitled to vote more than once at a primary, special election, or general election. If a voter incorrectly marks a ballot, he or she may be issued a replacement ballot.
(14) A voter who has already returned a ballot but requests to vote at a voting center shall be issued a provisional ballot. The canvassing board shall not count the provisional ballot if it finds that the voter has also voted a regular ballot in that primary, special election, or general election.
(15) The county auditor must prevent overflow of each ballot drop box to allow a voter to deposit his or her ballot securely. Ballots must be removed from a ballot drop box by at least two people, with a record kept of the date and time ballots were removed, and the names of people removing them. Ballots from drop boxes must be returned to the counting center in secured transport containers. A copy of the record must be placed in the container, and one copy must be transported with the ballots to the counting center, where the seal number must be verified by the county auditor or a designated representative. All ballot drop boxes must be secured at 8:00 p.m. on the day of the primary, special election, or general election.
(16) Any voter who is inside or in line at the voting center at 8:00 p.m. on the day of the primary, special election, or general election must be allowed to vote.
(17) For each primary, special election, and general election, the county auditor may provide election services at locations in addition to the voting center. The county auditor has discretion to establish which services will be provided at the additional locations, and which days and hours the locations will be open, except that the county auditor must establish a minimum of one ballot drop box per fifteen thousand registered voters in the county and a minimum of one ballot drop box in each city, town, and census-designated place in the county with a post office.

NOTES:

Effective date2018 c 112 §§ 1-4: See note following RCW 29A.08.140.
Notice to registered poll votersElections by mail2011 c 10: See note following RCW 29A.04.008.