Frequently Asked Questions
Below you'll find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions our office receives.
Who can register to vote?
Find out who is eligible to register to vote.

​To register to vote you must be:

  • A citizen of the United States.
  • Residing at your current address for a minimum of 30 days before Election Day.
  • A legal resident of Washington state.
  • At least 18 years old by Election Day. You can preregister to vote if you are between 16 or 17 years old.


How do I get a ballot?
Find out how to get a ballot, if you're a registered voter.

​Washington State is a vote-by-mail state. State law requires us to deliver ballots to the post office at least 18 days before Election Day. If you haven't received your ballot, please call our Elections team at 360.786.5408.

You can also get a ballot in-person at the Auditor's Office beginning 20 days before an election. You can find information about our location and hours to prepare for your visit. You can pick up a ballot for yourself, a family member or a registered domestic partner.

We have a list of key election dates and registration deadlines here.

What if I’m away during an election?
Find out what to do if you're going to be away during the election.

​You can vote in Washington State, even if you're away from home during an election. Please look at the following situations and identify your options:

  • Seasonal resident. If you are a seasonal resident, update your seasonal mailing address with our office. Provide us with the first and last days you'll receive mail at this address and we'll send your ballot to that address each year between the dates you specify.
  • Out of town and can't receive mail. You can access an electronic ballot by logging into VoteWA. You'll only need access to the internet and a printer to print your ballot and return it to our office.
  • Leaving town and can't receive your ballot by mail or email. If you know you'll be out of town and can't receive mail or email 90 days before an election, contact us and we can issue a special advance ballot to you.
How can I get assistance with voter registration and voting?
Learn more about your options for getting assistance with voter registration and voting.

​If you need assistance with registering to vote, obtaining a ballot and voting your ballot, please contact our office at 360.786.5408 for assistance. If you are deaf or hard-of-hearing, contact 711 Washington Relay.

You can also find helpful information on our Accessible Voting webpage about ExpressVote voting machines and ballot drop box locations.

I’m a college student…
College students have unique questions about voting. Learn more about your options for voting as a college student.

What address should I use to register to vote?

You can use either your hometown address or the address where you live at school. Your choice depends on where you want to claim residency.

If I keep my registration in my hometown, how do I vote while I'm away at college?

Call our office at 360.786.5408 to let us know you'd like us to send your ballot to your school address.

Can I vote by email?

While you can't vote by email,  you can access an electronic ballot by logging into VoteWA. You'll only need access to the internet and a printer to print your ballot and return it to our office.

I'm homeless or unstably homed...
You CAN vote if you live in a place where you cannot receive mail.

You CAN vote if you live in a place where you cannot receive mail. You register by providing:

  • A place where you spend most of your time
  • Another place where you can receive mail

You MUST fill out the residential address line on the voter registration form so we can assign your voting precinct. This address can be a park, intersection, or another place that we can find on a map.

For example: Olympia Ave NE and Franklin St. NE, Olympia, WA.

You must also provide a mailing address because we will mail your ballot to you. You can use one of the following:

  1. Address of a friend or relative

  2. Address of a shelter or day center where you can receive mail

  3. General delivery at a post office. The post office holds general delivery for 30 days. The post office requires identification to pick up general delivery mail. You don't have to pre-register to use general delivery.

More information here.

What is Same Day Registration (SDR)?
Find out how you can register and vote up until 8 p.m. on Election Day

​In the summer of 2019, Washington implemented same day registration. Citizens may register to vote or update their address up to 8:00 pm Election Day. 

  • Voters my register by any means up to 8 days prior to Election Day.
  • After that citizens must appear in person at their county Auditor's Office or other designated location to register to vote or update their address and be able to vote in that election.


What is a Future Voter?
Find out how 16 and 17 year olds can pre-register to vote

​A Future Voter is a teen who is pre-registered to vote. Citizens may pre-register to vote at age 16 and will be automatically eligible to vote and sent a ballot during the first election after their 18th birthday.

What is the Future Voter Program?

It is a program led by the Auditor's office guiding students to get the word out to those who can pre-register.

Who can participate in the Future Voter Program?

The Auditor's Office is partnering with high schools and SPSCC's Running Start Program to find individuals who want to make a positive change in their communities and are committed to spreading the word about the new Future Voter Law.

Do you or someone you know want to participate in the Future Voter Program?

We are looking for hardworking, reliable, motivated, and enthusiastic high school students who are passionate about the civic process. Students who are 16 or 17 years old with a desire to promote voter registration and are willing to communicate effectively with their peers are encouraged to participate.

What is the time commitment?

2-4 hours a month. Participants will help orchestrate voter registration drives at their schools and help promote the Future Voter Program.

Can I verify that my ballot was received by the Auditor’s Office?  
Find out how you can verify your ballot was received by the Auditor’s Office?

You can check your ballot status at VoteWA.Gov. Please allow 3 to 5 days between mailing and having your ballot status updated. 

Are there observers at ballot counting to ensure there is no bias?   
Find out how observers watch ballot processing
Visitors may come to the ballot processing center to view the process or watch it via live stream at ThurstonVotes.org. 
 
We also recruit and train observers to watch ballot processing. 
 
Ballot processing is very transparent and performed in an open warehouse environment. We protect voter privacy by separating any identifying information from the ballot. First, the outer mailing envelope, which displays name and address and voter ID, is opened, and separated from the security sleeve and the enclosed ballot. The outer mailing envelopes are set aside. Next, the ballots are removed from the security sleeves.


How does the elections division process my ballot securely?   
Find out how the elections division processes ballots securely 
After you return your voted ballot: 
  • Your signature on the oath return envelope is checked against the signature on file in your voter registration record. 
  • You are credited for voting. This ensures that only one ballot from each voter is counted. 
  • The oath return envelope, which identifies you, is separated from the inner security sleeve, which contains your voted ballot. Your ballot cannot be traced back to you. 
 Watch this video for more information on ballot processing.


Why do vote totals change in the days following the election?   
Find out why vote totals change in the days following the election

Normally only 50% of the votes are included in the Election Day results release. This makes it likely races may change in the following days as the remaining ballots are received and processed. Races could widen, narrow, or flip. This is normal and well within ranges of statistical probability.

How do we know that tabulating computers haven’t been hacked?  
Find out how we know tabulating computers haven’t been hacked


Tabulation equipment is certified by the Washington Secretary of State and the federal Election Assistance Commission. It is tested for resilience and accuracy by independent approved test laboratories.  
 
Tabulation equipment is also not connected to any outside networks, including the internet. They are kept under lock and key when not in use. And when in use, they are always monitored by cameras. 
 
Before each election, a public Logic and Accuracy test is conducted to ensure that voting equipment is ready for use and properly prepared to tabulate results.  
 
We also conduct post-election audits prior to the certification of the election. Observers appointed by political parties select races of interest and then select batches at random. The audit compares the vote totals from the tabulation system to a hand count of physical ballots. 



What other information is available on election rumors?
Find facts on election rumors

​Our partners at the Center for Internet Security maintains a regularly updated Rumor Control page.

Can I trust Ballot Drop Boxes? Is my ballot protected?   
Find out more about Ballot Drop Boxes
Drop boxes are a secure, convenient way for voters to return their ballot. There are 29 ballot drop boxes in Thurston County. It’s the most direct way to return your ballot. 
 
Drop boxes are open 24 hours a day for the entire voting period. Ballots are collected at least every 48 hours and often several times per day. They are securely locked and closed with tamper-evident seals. 
 
Two employees must be present at all times for ballot collection. 
 
Ballots are transported directly to the ballot processing center in sealed containers by teams of two. 
 
Your ballot is guaranteed on-time as long as the ballot is deposited by 8 p.m. on Election Day. 
How do you know voter registration records are accurate?
Find out more about VoteWA

Washington’s voter registration system (VoteWA) is continuously updated by county election workers as well as the Office of the Secretary of State. The Office of the Secretary of State works with the Social Security Administration, the Department of Licensing, the Department of Health, the Department of Corrections, and the Office of the Administrator of the Courts to maintain the accuracy of voter registration data. 
 
The Secretary of State’s Office regularly provides counties with lists of voters who need to be removed from the voter rolls. These lists include deceased voters, voters in custody of the Department of Corrections, or voters who may be registered in more than one county. Each month, the Office of the Secretary of State receives a list of deceased people from the Department of Health, as well as the Social Security Administration. These lists are compared to the voter registration list and potential matches are flagged for research by the County Auditors’ offices. Voter registrations of deceased persons are usually canceled within a month. County Auditors may also remove registrations of deceased persons using published obituaries or written notices from relatives. 
 
If you’ve received a ballot for a deceased member of your household, please return the ballot, marked “deceased.” Or, give us a call at 360.759.5408. We are truly sorry for your loss. 
 
Additionally, Washington State is a member of ERIC (Electronic Records Information Center) that compares voter registration and motor vehicle license data across 30 other states. ERIC uses sophisticated data matching software. ERIC reports can detect when a voter is registered in another state. 
 
We still rely on voters to keep their voter registration records updated. If you move or change your name, please contact us at elections@co.thurston.wa.us or 360.786.5408. 
 
If a ballot is mailed to your home in the name of someone who doesn’t reside with you, mark the ballot as “Return to sender” and place back into the mail. 



Can the election be rigged? 
Find out about safeguards to ensure election results are accurate

Elections are managed by professional, certified election officials. Audits, independent observation, and segregation of duties would not allow “rigging” to go undetected. 
 
While ballots are being handled, work is monitored on-site by observers and livestreamed on the Internet. 
 
The Logic and Accuracy test, post-election audit, and any required recounts all verify the accuracy and integrity of our tabulation system. 
 
report from the University of California Los Angeles and the University of New Mexico found that vote by mail does not increase voter fraud. 
 
There are very low rates of fraud in Vote by Mail states, as summarized by the Brookings Institute. 


Why would someone receive two ballots?
Find out why someone might receive two ballots
A person may receive an updated ballot because their residential address or name changed after the initial ballot mailing. Sometimes this happens when people interact with the Department of Licensing for drivers’ licensing services or if a voter has moved to a new address. 
 
If a person receives two ballots, we ask they open both packets. One should have an insert indicating that it is “Replacement/Reissued Ballot.” They should vote and return the replacement ballot. It has the correct races and precinct information for their new address. 
 
If they make a mistake and vote the initial ballot, the elections office will simply hold it and ensure they don’t submit the replacement. If the replacement isn’t received, the initial ballot will be counted. 


Is my voter registration coded by political party?   
Find out about voter party affilition and elections in Washington
Voters don’t choose a political party when they register to vote in Washington State. Party preference is not recorded in the voter’s registration record. Ballots sent to voters are not coded by party. Voters are free to select any candidate during regular and special elections, regardless of party preference. 
 
Every four years, the major political parties hold a Presidential nominating process. The parties can choose to nominate by caucus or hold an election with ballots. When the parties nominate by election, counties are required to mail and process ballots by political affiliation. This is the only election in which Washington's voters are required to mark and sign party declarations written by the major political parties. The party choice does not affect how voters make choices in Washington’s other regular elections. The Office of the Secretary of State is required to deliver election results to each major political party, including the party choice of participating voters. Once the election results have been transmitted, the voter’s party choice is removed from the voter’s file. 


Is it safe to mail my ballot using the USPS postal service?
Find out about the relationship between USPS and the county auditor

Yes. If you’re an early voter, you should feel confident to return your ballot by mail. Postal carriers are reliable, unbiased professionals who handle ballots with the utmost integrity. Your ballot is treated as 1st Class mail. It’s postage-paid. No need to apply a stamp. 
 
If you’re a late voter and plan to vote in the final week before Election Day, we recommend that you use a ballot drop box. Find the closest Ballot Drop Box here. 

I want to hand my ballot directly to an election worker.  
Find out how you can drop off your ballot

Thank you for trusting us! Ballot drop boxes bypass the USPS mail. You can deliver your ballot directly to election workers via a ballot drop box. We have 29 ballot drop box locations in Thurston County. Chances are good that one is within two miles of your home! Ballot drop boxes are collected by professional nonpartisan election workers with tight oversight. 
 
We offer in-person assistance, but Washington State no longer has polling places. Washington State became a “vote-from-home” state in 2011. Counties no longer have voting machines on which you cast your vote. Anyone who comes to the election center to vote “in person” will simply be handed another copy of the same ballot previously mailed. Please vote the ballot that was mailed to you. 
 
Only travel to the Voting Center if you need to register to vote or you don’t have a ballot. Even then, we would like you to call first at 360.786.5408 or email elections@co.thurston.wa.us, because we may be able to help you online or by phone. 
 
Do people have to prove U.S. Citizenship when they register to vote? 
Find out about voter registration
To register to vote in Washington state, people must provide some form of identification — most commonly their Washington state driver’s license or ID, or the last four digits of their Social Security number —and attest in a signed statement that they are a U.S. citizen and eligible to vote.  
 
A person who submits false citizenship on their voter registration application or votes as a noncitizen is guilty of a class C felony. This is clearly stated on all registration forms, and on every ballot envelope. 
 
Voters confirm their eligibility to vote in every election by signing the ballot declaration. If a person illegally registers and votes, they also jeopardize attaining citizenship in the future and could be deported. 
 
Per state law, election officials may not verify citizenship when they receive a voter’s registration. 
 
An official list of citizens to check citizenship status against does not exist. If the required information for voter registration is included – name; address; date of birth; a signature attesting to the truth of the information provided on the application; and an indication in the box confirming the individual is a U.S. citizen – the person must be added to the voter registration file. Modifying state law would require an act of the state legislature, and federal law, an act of Congress. Neither the Secretary of State nor the county auditor has lawmaking authority. 
 
While state law does not provide for citizenship verification upon registration, it does allow a local challenge of a voter registration, which can be brought by any person or the county prosecutor. The burden of proof lies with the challenger, and evidence must be presented to the county canvassing board for review. Learn more about the challenge process here. (RCW 29A.08.810 through 29A.08.850.) 
 
Additionally, the Washington State Department of Licensing has implemented federally compliant REAL ID for enhanced driver’s licenses and identicards. People applying for an enhanced license must present citizenship verification. This type of license will soon be required to travel by air and will provide election administrators an additional assurance to verify citizenship for registered voters.