SPOKANE, Wash — Voters are casting their ballots for various local, state and national races in the coming weeks as we near the 2020 General Election.
Election Day is Nov. 3, which is the last day to postmark or drop off a mail-in ballot in Washington.
KREM 2 set out to answer a handful of questions about voting in Spokane County, including how people can track their ballots, where they can go for help and when election results will be finalized.
The answers to those questions and more can be found below.
How can I track my ballot?
Washington voters can track their ballots online through the Secretary of State's website. The website will tell them when the ballot was sent, the status of signature verification and when the envelope will be sent for opening, according to Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton.
When is the last day to register to vote?
Those who are not registered to vote have until Oct. 26 to do so online. Voters will need a current Washington state driver's license, permit or ID card.
What protections are in place at the Elections Office?
All employees at the Spokane County Elections Office are wearing masks, Dalton said. Hand sanitizer is also available and tables are properly distanced.
The Elections Office also have plexiglass barriers in place.
Where can I go if I need help?
There are several Voter Service Centers in the Spokane area. They exist to help people register to vote or update their registration; drop off ballots; get a replacement ballot or envelope; use an Accessible Voting Unit; and get answers to voting questions.
The Voter Service Center at Centerplace Event Venter is Spokane Valley will be open on Friday, Oct. 16 through Nov. 2 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. It will also be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day.
The Elections Office at 1033 W. Gardner Ave. in downtown Spokane will be open through Saturday, Oct. 31 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and then will be closed to the public.
The Spokane Arena will serve as a Voter Service Center after that time with normal business hours on Monday, Nov. 2 and expanded hours on Election Day, Dalton said.
Where can I drop off my ballot? Can I do that now?
There are currently 25 ballot drop box locations in Spokane County.
Some are picked up daily and some are picked up every other day because they are low-volume, Dalton said.
“It is absolutely safe to start putting the ballots in the drop boxes right now,” Dalton said. “And, those drop boxes are emptied on a frequent basis. Most of them are emptied daily, except for the weekends”
As Election Day draws nearer, the ballot drop boxes are emptied more frequently, Dalton said.
If I'm mailing my ballot, when should I do that?
The USPS recommends voters mail their ballots no less than a week before Election Day. That would be Oct. 27.
Voters planning to wait until the last minute should try to avoid sending their ballots in the mail, officials said.
Do I have to pay for postage?
In Washington, all mail-in ballots will provide paid postage, meaning voters don’t need to put a stamp on their ballot.
In fact, adding a stamp to your Washington won’t change anything about how it is handled other than wasting a stamp, as it is already handled as First-Class Mail.
When will the Elections Office get through all of the ballots?
The results put out on Election Night are generally about 50% of valid ballots and it will take elections staff several days to collect the rest, Dalton said.
“We are expecting a huge wave in that final election week, so it’s going to take us a little to get through all of those valid ballots," she said.
It may take up to one week after Election Day for staff to get through all of the ballots, according to Dalton.
“My advice for people on Election Night is to go to bed," she added.
In Washington, counties must certify results by Nov. 24, which is three weeks after the election. The Washington Secretary of State must certify the results for the state on December 3.
Is the licking of ballot envelopes a concern?
Almost everyone at the Elections Office is wearing gloves when they are handling anything that someone else has touched, Dalton said.
KREM 2 and KING 5 staff members contributed to this report.