As the United States prepares to hold a presidential election in the midst of a deadly pandemic, many states are relying on voting by mail to reduce in-person contact at the polls, including Washington state.
Washington holds universal mail-in elections, meaning that all voters are sent mail ballots whether they request one or not. It first gave counties the choice to opt-in to universal mail-in voting in 2005 before requiring universal mail-in voting in 2011 when 38 of 39 counties were already participating in the system.
"Washington is leading the nation in elections. Our modernized election system and Vote-by-Mail are allowing us to deal with the impacts of this virus while continuing to serve people across our state," Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman said in a tweet in late March, just as concerns about the coronavirus pandemic were starting to reach a fever pitch.
Just because Washington emphasized mail voting does not mean there are no in-person voting options, however. The state provides drop boxes for people who do not want to send their ballots in the mail. Each county, according to the state website, also opens a voting center that is open for 18 days before each election and closes for voting at 8 p.m. on Election Day.
Washington, like other states, allows voters to track their mail-in ballots online to ensure they are counted. In Washington that site is VoteWA.gov.
Ballots mailed in Washington, according to the secretary of state website, must be postmarked on Election Day or put in drop boxes by 8 p.m. on Election Day.