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Voting in Seattle: Everything you need to know

We’re all mail-in! Postage is pre-paid!

Jason Redmond/AFP/Getty Images

Maybe you’re a newly engaged voter, maybe you’re a newcomer to the area, or maybe you just need a refresher. Regardless: Voting is most certainly on the brain during election season, when you’re bombarded with fundraising emails and political ads at every turn. We’re here to answer the basic questions.

How do I vote in Seattle?

Seattle—and all of Washington State—is vote-by-mail only after the Washington State Legislature passed a law in 2011 switching to an all-mail system statewide. Previously, many counties had already made the switch, although some allowed an either/or option. If you’re registered to vote under your current address, it should just magically appear in your mailbox.

After filling in your ballot according to the instructions in your packet, just drop it in your mailbox or in a ballot dropbox (you can find a map of locations near you by logging into the Secretary of State website with your name and birthdate). As of this year, you don’t even need a stamp to mail it; King County approved funding to eliminate postage, and Washington State felt obligated to follow suit.

If you forget to stick your ballot in that little security sleeve before sealing it off, don’t worry—it still counts.

When will my ballot arrive?

Ballots arrive a couple of weeks in advance of the election, and voters have time to carefully consider their choices. In King County, you can check to see when (and where) your ballot was sent by logging in with your name and birthdate or house number at this link.

Mail-in ballots put Washington in a unique position where people are voting throughout a multiple-week period rather than all on the same day. Many canvassing projects are pulling daily voter rolls, so if you’re in a hotly contested district, the best way to keep your door from being knocked on (and to stop the deluge of mail and phone calls) is to vote as soon as you can.

Three pieces of paper: An envelope with a green design at the left side addressed to King County Elections. Behind that, a sheet of paper with multiple-choice questions. There’s another that says “This end up” behind that.
Ballots in Washington State are mailed, and come with a return envelope and a security sleeve to mask your choices. The ballot pictured is from 2014.
Moment Editorial/Getty Images

Do I have to vote by mail?

Not exactly. If you’re not comfortable voting by mail, or you need extra help to fill it out, you can visit a voting center near you. If it’s just a matter of being worried about your ballot getting lost in the mail, you can slide it into a dropbox. Lots of them are located at libraries and community centers—you can check for the closest one on this map.

When is my ballot due?

Your ballot is due on Election Day—which is marked on your ballot. That means it has to be postmarked or dropped in a ballot dropbox by 8 p.m. on that day. (Yes, this means that election results keep rolling in long after election day.)

My dog ate my ballot—or it never came! What do I do?

You can request a replacement ballot on the Secretary of State’s website by logging in with your name and birthdate or by contacting your local county elections department.

I can’t fill out my ballot by myself. What do I do?

Hit up your closest voting center—they have staff and equipment to help you out.

Oops, I forgot to register. Is it too late?

Probably not! Online and by-mail registration needs to be received eight days before election day, bould-be voters can still register in-person with King County Elections up until 8 p.m. on election day.

If you just forgot to change your registration address, some counties allow mail to be forwarded, but it’s best to check in with your county elections department just in case.

What if I don’t have an address? How do you vote when you’re homeless?

You can register your address as a shelter or even a local library that you frequent. For example: More than 5,000 people receive mail at Compass Housing, according to the YWCA.

What if I’m not sure I’m eligible to vote?

If you’re not sure if your voter eligibility, you can fill out a provisional ballot just like in other states. Those are available at local voting centers.

Can I make sure my ballot was received?

Yes! With your name, birthdate, and registration address, you can log onto the King County Elections website and see your ballot’s progress.

An earlier version of this article said that 5,000 voters receive ballots at Compass Housing. The statistic, while relevant to voter registration, is that 5,000 people receive mail service through Compass.