How your Voter Registration becomes “Inactive”

The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments in a case about Ohio’s voter registration rules. Ohio has one of the most aggressive voter purge systems in the country. The state strikes voters from its rolls if they miss voting in two elections or fail to return a form confirming their mailing address. At issue is whether Ohio’s system violates the National Voting Rights Act, which says states can’t purge registered voters for failing to vote.


In light of this case, we wanted to explain our process for inactivating a voter’s registration. When any correspondence we send to a voter (ballot, letters, ect.)  is returned to us as undeliverable, the voter’s registration becomes “inactive.” We also inactivate a voter’s registration if we receive information from the US Postal Service that the voter moved out of King County. Voters who are inactive will receive a confirmation card sent to every address we have on file for them to see if we can get their most current information.

If we receive no response from the voter, they will remain on inactive status for two federal general elections before they can be cancelled. Depending on when the voter’s registration became inactive, this gives them two to four years to correct the information on file. It also ensures that we are not sending ballots out to known bad addresses. If the voter updates their address during this time or contacts us to vote, then their registration is reactivated.

Confirmation Card
An address confirmation card is mailed to voters after any correspondence we sent them comes back as undeliverable or when USPS notifies us that the voter has moved out of King County.

There are no requirements to actually vote in order to keep your voter registration status current. In Washington state, you can be a registered voter and never cast a ballot. That’s because voting is your right as a citizen and only you can make the choice to vote. However, we always encourage you to vote and help make the decisions that impact our community.

All you need to do is keep your mailing address current. If you’ve recently moved or plan to move, here’s how to update your address. Notifying us of your new address helps us keep the County’s voter list up to date. Accurate voter rolls help to prevent election fraud and cut down on election costs. To learn more about how we maintain our voter list, read the Elections Assistance Commission’s Q&A with Director Julie Wise.