You've gotten registered, you've researched the candidates, and now you're ready to vote. But what is the best way to turn in your ballot and follow its journey to make sure your vote gets counted? We cover all of your options so you know the steps to take.

The November 3 presidential election is just around the corner, in fact, ballots will be mailed out to voters starting this Thursday, October 15. This year it’s more important than ever to vote early and make sure your vote is counted.

While here in Washington we are better prepared than other states for voting during a pandemic with our system of voting by mail, it’s important to be informed about recent developments with the United States Postal Service.

USPS Mailbox

Back in May, campaign fundraiser Louis DeJoy was appointed the Postmaster General by the Trump administration. DeJoy quickly ordered the removal of mail-sorting machines and mail carriers to de-prioritize mailed ballots. President Trump admitted this was intentional to prevent mail-in votes from being counted. While DeJoy has since halted these policies after the public outcry against them, not all mail sorting machines have been returned or replaced.

These realities of a possibly hamstrung USPS means you need to plan how you’re going to vote this year more carefully than in the past. Here are the steps you need to take to make sure your vote gets counted.

Drop it like it's hot

The best way to ensure your ballot is counted regardless of what the USPS does is to use our county-run system of ballot drop boxes. These drop boxes are located across the state, and you can find your nearest one on your county’s website, like King County’s map or Snohomish County’s.

A ballot drop box is shown

Fireproof, bullet-proof, and even SUV-proof, these drop boxes are emptied multiple times a day. However, on Election Day, they often overflow from late-voting people and become unusable for a time until the elections division empties the box again. The best way to overcome this issue is to get your ballot in the drop box far ahead of time.

In-Person voting

Another method of voting that folks may not even realize still exists is to vote in person. Yes, it is still possible to vote in person in Washington state! This is especially important for folks who register to vote shortly before or on election day, as there isn’t time for them to receive a ballot by mail. Be aware that there are very limited polling locations to vote in person, and due to COVID-19 they will have reduced capacity to allow for social distancing. 

Follow your ballot

If it’s still easiest for you to vote by mail through the postal system, be sure to allow for plenty of time to address any possible issues by voting as early as possible. The best way to make sure your ballot has been successfully received by the state elections department to be counted is to use Washington’s Ballot Tracker. Enter your name and birth date, and select "Ballot Status" on the left.

Ballot tracker showing where to see the status of your vote
The location of the Ballot Tracker shown on

This works for any method of voting, and will tell you if your ballot has been mailed to you, or if they’ve received your completed ballot. Check the tracker a couple of days after mailing your ballot to ensure it’s been received, and if it hasn’t, contact the Secretary of State’s office for help. They may send you a replacement ballot which will help you guarantee your vote is counted.

No matter how you choose to vote, the earlier you get your ballot in, the better your chances are of having your vote counted. If you do have any issues voting, be sure to report them to the Crosscut election tipline for any voting problems.

Eric Bronson

Eric Bronson is the Digital Advocacy and Engagement Manager at YWCA. He manages the Firesteel blog in addition to its social media streams and action initiatives. A graduate of Oberlin College, Eric focuses on the intersection of race and gender within the American political economy.


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Tue, 10/13/2020 - 09:09
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