VOTERS' GUIDE: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Answers to your questions about how to make sure your vote counts. Click a button for more details.


How do you register to vote?

There are three ways someone can register to vote. With COVID, we are encouraging anyone who has access to the internet to access the statewide website, voteWA.gov. That is the website where any Washington state resident who needs to register to vote can go online and enter their information, and that will register them to vote. It will also update their information, so any address change that needs to happen can happen on that website as well.

If you don’t have access to the internet, you can contact our office and we can mail you a voter registration form. Fill it out, mail it back to us and then we’ll register you to vote.

Lastly, we are a same-day voter registration state. That means voters have until 8 o’clock on Election Day to register to vote. So if it is Election Day or the day before and you’re still not registered, you can still come in-person and register to vote in order to ensure that you participate.

Ballots need to returned to red county drop boxes by 8 p.m. Nov. 3, or postmarked by Nov. 3 if mailed, to be counted.

How do you fill out a ballot? What if you mess up a race?

There are instructions on the ballot regarding filling in the rectangle. Every county’s ballot looks slightly different. But for Yakima County, in order to vote, what you’re doing is you’re filling in the rectangle next to the answer or the candidate for which you choose to vote for. If you make a mistake, it’s not a problem. There are also instructions on how to correct that mistake.

Do voters have to use a black or blue pen? What if they use a pencil?

We encourage all voters to use a black pen when voting, but if you don’t, it’s OK. It is an extra step when processing the ballot. It will take us a little longer. But we will make sure that your vote still counts.

Janelle Retka, education reporter with the Yakima Herald-Republic, leads a Q/A with Yolanda Arellano, the bilingual program analyst for Yakima County Elections, about how the voting process works from start to finish.

How should I submit my ballot this year?

County election officials are encouraging voters to submit their ballot the same way they always have - whether that's by mail or at one of the 15 drop boxes across the county.

Do I need to be concerned about using the postal service?

Yakima County has been vote-by-mail since 2005, so the county has a lot of experience in conducting elections by mail. Yakima County election administrators say they're confident that not only will you receive your ballot in a timely manner in order to vote, but that if your ballot is mailed by election day it'll arrive in a timely manner to count it.

How do I find a drop box?

There are a couple different ways. You can visit VoteWA.gov. Among other things it lists all the different locations where you can drop your ballot off. You'll also receive a list of those ballot drop boxes in the ballot packet.

Janelle Retka, education reporter with the Yakima Herald-Republic, leads a Q/A with Yolanda Arellano, the bilingual program analyst for Yakima County Elections, about how and where to turn in your ballot.

How is each vote counted?

Two election staffers pick up ballots from the post office and drop boxes. They bring them back to the elections office, and then they inventory those ballots — essentially give someone credit for returning a ballot.

After they’re inventoried, they’re signature-checked to ensure the signature on the envelope matches the signature on the voter registration. If the signature matches, the ballot is accepted. The ballot is then assigned to its “precinct group” to prepare it for the elections processing center.

The next step is to actually count that vote. To ensure confidentiality, the ballot is separated from the envelope that has the voter’s name and signature. Once that happens, election staff reviews the ballot to ensure everything is OK. If everything checks out, the ballot is scanned electronically, so that eventually, on election night, the votes can be tallied.

Once the ballot is scanned it’s returned to a security cage in the county auditor’s office where it will remain until all the ballots are archived after the election result has been certified in late November.

How do I find out if there’s something wrong with my ballot?

The only issue that a voter can have with a ballot would be signature-related. State law requires the county auditor’s office to contact you to let you know if you forgot to sign or if your signature doesn’t match what the county has on file. You are given until the day before certification to remedy that problem.

How long will it take to get results?

The official results will be when the results are certified at noon on Nov. 24. There will be unofficial results available on election night, but it’s common for it take several days before the outcome of tight races are known.

Janelle Retka, education reporter with the Yakima Herald-Republic, leads a Q/A with Yolanda Arellano, the bilingual program analyst for Yakima County Elections, about the counting process and tally.

VOTERS' GUIDE: IMPORTANT DATES

  • Oct 16

Start of 18-day voting period (through Election Day). Ballots are mailed out and Accessible Voting Units (AVUs) are available at voting centers.

  • Oct 26

Online and mail registrations must be received 8 days before Election Day. Register to vote in person during business hours and any time before 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.

  • Nov 3

General Election - Deposit your ballot in an official drop box by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

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