Our voter’s guide covers information about registration and voting in Washington State, especially for voters in the Seattle-Tacoma metro area and around the Puget Sound basin, including Skagit, Snohomish, Island, Kitsap, King, and Pierce counties. Listed below, you’ll find information about registering, voting by mail, election dates, and resources for understanding ballot issues and the candidates running for office.
Register to Vote
To participate in elections in the United States, you must be registered to vote. Voter Registration processes vary by state. In Washington State, the voting process is administered by the Washington Secretary of State. You can register to vote at any time. You usually only need to register once. Register to vote in Washington State.
However, if it is close to an election, you may register but may not be able to vote in the next election if you do not register by the deadline for that election. Washington State voter registration deadlines were as follows:
- register to vote online or via U.S. Mail no later than 8 days before the election
- register to vote in person during business hours and any time before 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.
For more information about Washington State voter registration deadlines, visit: sos.wa.gov/elections/Dates-and-Deadlines.aspx.
National Voter Registration Day
National Voter Registration Day, a nonpartisan civic holiday celebrating our democracy, is celebrated every September. Volunteers across the country work to create broad awareness of voter registration opportunities to ensure every eligible voter has the opportunity to vote. More info: National Voter Registration Day
How to Vote
Washington State started voting by mail in 1983. Voting by mail is convenient for those with busy lives (which is pretty much all of us).
Mail ballots allow plenty of time to understand all ballot measures and to review all candidates before casting your vote. There was nothing more irritating than getting to the polling place and finding an issue or candidate that you hadn’t heard about and trying to cast a meaningful vote.
Another benefit is higher turnout elections, especially in smaller elections between the presidential elections when only local offices and issues are on the ballot.
Vote by Mail
Prior to each election, you will receive voters’ pamphlets and your ballot by mail. Ballots are mailed to registered voters at least 18 days before each election. The voter’s pamphlet is mailed separately by bulk mail, so may arrive in your mailbox on different days.
- To vote, not only fill out your ballot, but also sign it and return on or before election day. You can mail it without postage or drop it in an official ballot box, located throughout Washington State.
- To find an official ballot drop box, visit he website for your County Auditor or check your registration address at VoteWA.gov. The list of ballot drop boxes open for an election will be available about 30 days prior to election day.
All counties in Washington State conduct elections the same way, using vote-by-mail. Ballots are kept in secure storage while not being processed. They are secured with numbered seals and a log is kept of the seal numbers to detect any inappropriate access. Processing of ballots includes the verification of postmarks and signatures, removing the inner envelope from the outer envelope, and removing the ballot from the inner envelope.
Governments do not hold elections for every office each year. Many federal, state, and local offices are elected every four years, including the U.S. president, Washington State governor, and Seattle and Tacoma mayors. However, U.S. Senate seats are elected every six years, while U.S. Representatives are every two years.
In the Washington State legislature, Senators are elected every four years and Representatives every two years. In Washington State, elections may take place four times a year per RCW 29A.04.321:
- Special election: The second Tuesday in February
- Special election: The fourth Tuesday in April
- Primary election: The first Tuesday of August
- General election: The first Tuesday after the first Monday in November
For more information about election dates and deadlines, visit: https://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/dates-and-deadlines.aspx.
There are many ways for you to become informed about voting. Here are some ways to find out what and who is on the ballot.
For ballot measures and candidates, refer to your voter’s pamphlet, which arrives by mail. You may also visit the Online Voters’ Guide; find a link on the Washington State elections page.
For information about ballot issues and candidates in the Puget Sound region, visit the website for your county elections department:
- WA State | Elections
- King County elections
- Pierce County elections
- Snohomish County elections
- Kitsap County elections
- Island County voter information
For more information about ballot measures and candidates in your county, visit: https://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/auditors/
For more information about voting in Washington State, visit: http://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/voters.
For still more information about Washington State government, including laws, bills, the legislative calendar, finding your voting district and legislators, and more, visit: http://leg.wa.gov
While the resources below do not exhaustively include every available political resource, we have made every effort to provide a list of partisan, non-partisan, and independent resources. Consider it your free guide to shaping your political views, whatever they may be.
Political Parties in Washington State
You may be surprised (as I was) to know that there are over two dozen ballot qualified political parties in the United States. However, except for the Democratic and Republican parties, last time we checked none of the other political parties are qualified in all 50 states. Listed below in alphabetical order, we list the two major political parties, plus others that appear to be active Washington State based on the activity on their website last time we checked.
- Constitution Party of Washington
- Democratic Party in Washington State (“blue”, donkey symbol, acronym DNC, which stands for Democratic National Convention)
- Green Party of Washington
- Libertarian Party of Washington
- Progressive Party of Washington
- Republican Party in Washington State (“red”, elephant symbol, nickname GOP, which stands for “Grand Old Party”)
Other Partisan, Non-Partisan, and Independent Sources
People typically cast themselves as “left” or liberal, “right” or conservative, independent (fluctuating between the two on different issues), or moderate (somewhere in the middle). Individuals claiming the same ideology may still have differing viewpoints from one issue to the next.
I read “somewhere” that if you are in a random group of people, you can expect that 2/3 of the room will DISAGREE with you 2/3 of the time on any particular issue. Just some food for thought….
Below is a selected list of independent, partisan and non-partisan sources that can provide information about politics, policies, and elections in the United States. This is by no means a complete list but offered as a starting point for your own political exploration.
- List of conservative news outlets considered to represent a “conservative bias” based either on self-identification or their perceived content.
- List of liberal news outlets considered to represent a “liberal bias” based either on self-identification or their perceived content.
- Pew Research Center on U.S. Politics & Policy is a “fact tank” that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. They conduct public opinion polling, demographic research, content analysis, and other data-driven social science research. They do not take policy positions.
- Rock the Vote is the largest non-partisan, non-profit organization in the United States driving young people to the polls. Rock the Vote is dedicated only to building political power for young people. Rock the Vote does not support or endorse candidates, nor advocate for one political party over another. They don’t care who you vote for – they just want you to vote and participate in the process.
- The Center for Communication and Civic Engagement at the University of Washington is dedicated to understanding and facilitating the uses of media systems and communication practices to promote citizen engagement and effective participation in local, national, and global affairs.
- The Washington Bus is a youth-driven organization that makes politics engaging, effective and fun. Their aim is to increase political access and participation for young people across Washington State and to develop our next generation of young leaders.
- Vote Smart claims to provide free, factual, unbiased information on candidates and elected officials, providing information such as biographies, voting records, speeches, funding, and more using partisan and bi-partisan sources.
Washington State Newspapers
An alphabetical list of newspapers that regularly report on community, local, and regional issues.
- Capitol Hill Times
- Daily Journal of Commerce
- El Mundo
- International Examiner (Asian Pacific Islander)
- Korea Daily Seattle
- La Raza Northwest
- Madison Park Times
- Northwest Asian Weekly
- Northwest Vietnamese News
- NW Facts Newspaper | Facebook
- Puget Sound Business Journal
- Queen Anne & Magnolia News
- Real Change
- Seattle Chinese Post
- Seattle Chinese Times
- Seattle Gay News
- Seattle Medium
- Seattle Post Intelligencer
- Seattle Times
- Seattle Weekly
- South Seattle Emerald
- West Seattle Herald
Other Puget Sound newspapers
- Auburn Reporter
- Bainbridge Island Review
- Everett-Snohomish Herald
- Go Skagit (Skagit Valley Herald)
- Kitsap Sun
- Northwest Military
- Sound Publishing (40+ titles serving Washington communities)
- Whidbey News-Times | Crosswind
Other Washington newspapers
- Peninsula Daily News (Clallam and Jefferson counties)
- Spokane Spokesman-Review
- Spokane Exchange
- The Pacific Northwest Inlander
- Tri Cities Area Journal of Business
College Newspapers in Washington State
- Central WA University The Observer
- Eastern WA University The Easterner Online
- Pacific Lutheran University Mast Media (The Mooring Mast)
- Seattle University Spectator
- University of Washington Seattle The Daily
- University of Washington Tacoma Tacoma Ledger
- Washington State University WSU Insider
- Western Washington University The Front
- Whitman College Whitman Wire
- Whitworth College The Whitworthian
For other questions about elections and voting in Washington State, including registering to vote, helping someone else to vote, finding voter instructions in other languages, or any other information to help you exercise your voting rights, go to the Washington State elections page.
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