Washington State is a great place to be a voter. The office of WA Secretary of State, headed by Kim Wyman, is responsible for oversight of the thirty-nine county auditors (Vicky Dalton in Spokane County, Dianna Galvin in Ferry County) who actually manage the local details of voting and voter registration. Even so, a lot of voter registration can be done directly through the Secretary of State’s office: https://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/voters/ . It provides a wealth of information from which I’ve picked a few key points below.
Rule One: For a given election you can only vote in one place in the United States. Period. It is not actually illegal to be registered to vote in two states. With our mobile population that happens sometimes by accident or inattention, but it is not illegal. However, if you cast a ballot in more than one place in a given election that is voter fraud, and voter fraud is a felony.
How easy is it to register to vote or change your “voting residence” in Washington State? Very easy. Three options. If you’re already registered in WA State or if you have a valid WA State driver’s license or WA state ID (and know your birthdate 🙂 the quickest and easiest way to register, review, or change your WA State voter registration is to go to MyVote.wa.gov. In fact, I recommend you visit right now, just to see what’s there and make sure your registration is up-to-date. It is unlikely that anyone reading this email has an “inactive” or “cancelled” voter registration, but it never hurts to check. (To learn how a voter registration could become inactive or cancelled go here.) There’s a lot of other nifty information at MyVote.wa.gov, like your “voting history” (actually your ballot casting history). How consistent have you been as a voter? Although there are a lot of safeguards, it is remotely possible someone with access to your birthdate could mess with your registration, so check it out.
[Online voter registration will not be available this Labor Day weekend on account of a licensing system update. Mail-in registration will still work.]
Washington State needs you to “establish a legal residence” 30 days before the election in which you wish to vote. “Voting residence” specifies the content of your ballot. You can specify a different address as the mailing address to which your ballot will be sent, and you can change all of that easily. (Broadly speaking, your voting residence is where you sleep. If you have a nontraditional address, such as a motor home or transitional housing, your voting residence is the physical location at the time you register to vote. Under some circumstances, like living overseas or being in military you won’t even have to sleep at your voting residence.)
Now let’s take the case of a U.S. citizen who moves to Washington State. If you don’t have a WA State driver’s license or WA State ID yet, then you need to get registered using the last four digits of you Social Security number. That cannot be done online but is done by mail or in person.
The deadline for registering or updating voter registration in WA State online or by mail (postmarked by) is October 8 for the General Election this November. You can still register or update your registration in person until October 29, but that’s a bigger effort.
So how does this apply to the quest to obtain better representation in government? Know the rules, check your own status, suggest to others they check theirs, and, finally, help others to sign up.
One group to think about is college students. If a student turns eighteen before November 6th (Election Day), is a U.S. citizen (and not under Department of Corrections supervision for a felony conviction) and lives at school then that student can claim their student residence as their voting residence as a new WA State voter (or change voting residence as an already registered WA State voter). [See eligibility details here.]
Washington State makes it easy to register and easy to keep up to date as a voter. We have not been gripped by efforts at voter suppression that we read about in the national news. Voting is the one chance we get to have a real voice in our government.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. There is a WA State Auditor. Isn’t it curious the Secretary of State and not the State Auditor oversees county auditors’ work with elections? The organization of government is not always superficially logical…
P.P.S. Whenever we get a whiff of a county auditor whose actions look like or are making voting harder it is right to point at it, as Karen Hardy (candidate for State Senator in LD7) did twice with Dianna Galvin, county auditor for Ferry County in the Primary Election this year. See a second article in the same vein here.