The Aug. 6 primary election ballots were mailed out this week and with them voting regulations will arrive aimed at making the process easier, encouraging more people to vote and helping teenagers become responsible voters.
There were 50,455 ballots mailed out Wednesday in Clallam County and 21,823 in Jefferson County, the counties’ election coordinators said Thursday.
Multiple laws changed throughout the 2018 and 2019 state legislative sessions that include key dates and deadlines for voter registration and voting, Jefferson County Election Coordinator Betty Johnson said in a press release.
All postage for mail in ballots is pre-paid, which essentially turns any person’s mailbox into their own election drop-box for free.
The primary election marks the beginning of the state offering pre-stamped ballot envelopes for all elections, Johnson said Thursday.
The changes aim at “removing barriers to voting,” Clallam County elections coordinator Becky Pettigrew said.
“All of them are really good for voters for people to be able to participate,” Johnson said in an interview.
To guarantee that a ballot is counted, Johnson recommends mailing it before the Friday preceding an election. For the primary election on Aug. 6, that would be Friday, Aug. 2.
Eligible voters must submit their voter registration materials to be received by the county election office by July 29.
After that, voter registration needs to be completed in person at the election office.
Another change is allowing voters to register to vote until the evening of Aug. 6, when ballots must be postmarked, left in ballot boxes or dropped off at county elections offices by 8 p.m.
Residents can submit their registration online at www.VoteWA.gov.
VoteWA is a new online system on which voters can register, track their ballots, fill out their ballots to print already filled in and print out replacement ballots.
Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman said the program was created to have a more secure online voter system and increase access to their different programs.
“Since its launch, VoteWA has enabled us to fortify the cybersecurity of our state and county elections to a level simply not possible with our current systems,” Wyman said.
“It is a collaborative, innovative solution to a complex and urgent problem.”
In addition to the previous uses, the VoteWA system also employs a new “Future Voter” program which allows 16- and 17-year-old residents to enroll and then be registered automatically as voters when they turn 18, and those who turn 18 on or before Aug. 6 will be eligible to vote in the primaries, according to Johnson.
Pettigrew said that beginning Jan. 16, 2020, high schools will be required to participate in the Temperance and Good Citizenship Day.
“On each temperance and good citizenship day all students who will be 18 years of age or older by the time of the next general election will be given the opportunity to register to vote online in the classroom,” according to the state law that became effective July 1 (tinyurl.com/PDN-TeenVoting).
“All the high schools that day will be required to do a program that day that helps students to learn how to communicate in a peaceful way with each other, have good dialogue,” Pettigrew said.
“They will talk about voting, all of these things that are important for our citizens to help create a foundation for them” for participating in elections, Pettigrew said.
Voters who do not receive their paper ballot in the mail by next week are urged to call county election offices: 360-417-2217 in Clallam County and 360-385-9117 in Jefferson County.
The primary does not include any countywide measures in Jefferson and Clallam counties.
The Jefferson County election office is in the county courthouse at 1820 Jefferson St., Port Townsend.
Jefferson County has four voter drop boxes: outside the county auditors office inside the courthouse, in the back parking lot of the courthouse, the parking lot of the Jefferson County Library at 620 Cedar Ave. and the Nordland Fire Station at 6633 Flagler Road.
Externally located ballot boxes are accessible 24/7. Those within buildings are limited to that building’s open hours. All ballot boxes will be closed and locked at 8 p.m. Aug. 6.
In Clallam County, drop boxes are in Carlsborg at 261461 Highway 101, Clallam Bay at 16990 state Highway 112, Forks at 500 E. Division St., Neah Bay at 1450 Bayview Ave., Sekiu at 15 Sekiu Airport Road, Sequim at 651 W. Washington St. and in the auditor’s office in the Clallam County Courthouse at 223 E. Fourth St., Port Angeles, as well as two places in the courthouse parking lot.
Pettigrew said Clallam County is adding eight temporary elections workers to its pool to help with the expected increase in the workload.
“In 2018, the general election was a lot busier than we had anticipated, just because of strong interest among voters and being more active and participating,” she said.
The 2020 presidential primary is coming up, Pettigrew said, adding, “We need to gear up for that.”
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5 or at [email protected]ailynews.com.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected] peninsuladailynews.com.