Drop box on East Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard

Bill Yallup Jr. drops his ballot off at the drop box on East Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, in Yakima, Wash.

Primary election ballots are making their way back to elections officials in Yakima County this week as voters make selections to narrow the candidate field in local, statewide and federal races, and the elections office starts tabulating results.

For each race in the primary, the top two candidates, regardless of party, will advance to the November general election.

More than 10,000 Yakima County voters had returned their ballots as of Friday, and several more had arrived at the elections office as of Monday morning, according to Auditor Charles Ross.

He said the returns put the county on track to reach a typical ballot count, with about a 30% return rate for the primary election.

As the primary deadline looms, here are some reminders for voters and candidates.

Ballot return

Voters have until 8 p.m. Tuesday to return their ballot, either to the red ballot drop boxes located throughout the county or to blue mail collection boxes. Ballots returned by mail must be postmarked no later than election day to be valid. A list of official ballot boxes is available at bit.ly/YHRelxn.

Ross reminded voters to enclose their ballot in the security sleeve and sign their ballot envelope before dropping it in the return box. Voters are encouraged to include their phone number so the county can contact them if there are any issues with their ballot, he said.

The county is required to contact voters who forget to sign, and mailing a letter doesn’t always cut it for voters who return their ballot in the final days leading up to the deadline.

“We’re getting to the point where if we can’t get hold of you via the phone, it really makes it hard for that voter to cure the ballot if there is a signature problem,” Ross said Monday.

Registration

Monday was the last day for new voters to register by mail or online, but in-person voter registration is open until 8 p.m. Tuesday, the same time ballots are due.

Registration and other in-person voting services are available at the elections office in Yakima, 128 N. Second St. Room 117, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the day of the election. The election office in Sunnyside, 617 Scoon Road is also open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on election day for registration and other in-person services.

Both locations offer services in English and Spanish, Ross said.

Signage

No signs have been posted near Yakima County ballot boxes alerting voters of surveillance, Ross said Monday. Other Washington communities removed signs warning of surveillance of ballot drop sites last week, citing concerns about voter intimidation.

“We did not have any signs or anything like that,” Ross said. “We’ve had pretty good luck so far.”

The Yakima County elections department did move some candidate signs that had been placed between City Hall and the Yakima County Courthouse in downtown Yakima because it was within 100 feet of the ballot return location, Ross said.

He said the elections department contacted the candidates and they understood.

“The drop boxes are (also) supposed to be political-free or campaign-free zones, so we’re asking campaigns and voters and people to respect the drop box,” Ross said. “Don’t linger, don’t try to communicate with people at the drop box.”

More election information

Though the elections office starts tabulating votes for primary election races this week, results won’t be available until after the voting period ends at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Ross said ballot processing is open for observation by the public. Any voters, candidates or campaigns can watch as the elections staff separate ballots and run them through the counting machines.

“Our goal is to always have all the ballots that are into our possession on election day in the count that night, that way we get a really strong count,” Ross said.

Election results will be posted to the county and state elections websites and updated in the days after the election as more results are tallied. The election will be certified Aug. 16.

Voters who haven’t yet filled out their ballot can visit voteWA.gov to see a personalized voter guide for each race or view a sample ballot on the county’s elections website.

Anyone with questions can call the elections office directly at 509-574-1340.

Contact Kate Smith at katesmith@yakimaherald.com.

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