Elections in the time of COVID-19

Keeping our staff and voters safe and healthy is one of our top priorities for this upcoming election. Here are some questions we’ve encountered about how we’re handling the upcoming election in the midst of a pandemic.

How do I vote in a COVID-19 world?

The great news is that we already vote-by-mail in Washington State. If you are already registered to vote, your ballot will be mailed to you automatically about three weeks before Election Day. You can fill it out in the convenience of your home and then either drop it in the mail or return it to any of our more than 70 ballot drop boxes across the county.

Not yet registered? No problem. Up until eight days before Election Day you can register online or by mail. If it’s within eight days of Election Day, you do have to come in-person to a Vote Center to get registered. Vote Center locations will be offering both curbside and walk-up service to ensure that both our staff and voters stay staff.      

  • What should I do if I need to register to vote?

If you aren’t yet registered to vote, don’t wait so you don’t have to come in-person! Up until eight days before Election Day you can register online or by mail. After the eight day deadline, you do have to come in-person to a Vote Center to get registered.

The deadline to register to vote online is October 26 for the November 3 General election.

  • Can I vote in-person?

We will have Vote Center locations open for in-person voting with a variety of COVID-19 precautions. That said, we strongly recommend that voters take advantage of our vote-by-mail system and cast their ballot from the safety of their home. If you need a replacement ballot you have a variety of options:

Voters with a disability will be able to cast an independent, private ballot on our accessible voting units at any Vote Center. Units will be spaced for social distancing and staff will provide service in a way that keeps everyone safe.   

  • Can I register and vote online?

If you have a Washington State ID you can register to vote or update your registration online up until eight days before Election Day. After the eight day deadline, you do have to come in-person to a Vote Center to get registered. If you do not have a Washington State ID, you can register to vote on a paper form and mail it to us. We must receive the paper form by the eight-day deadline, regardless of postmark date.

While you can’t cast your vote online, you can access your ballot and print off a replacement through our online ballot marking program. You will still need to return it either by mail or at one of our ballot drop box locations.

  • How are you keeping your staff safe?

We are taking many precautions to ensure our staff and voters stay safe. Some of them include:

  • Screening all staff and visitors for an elevated temperature as they come into the building and requiring that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms stay home.
    • Requiring all staff, voters and visitors to wear a mask or face covering. For any voter who is unable to wear a mask because of medical reason or disability, we will provide socially distanced service outside at a designated location.
    • Training all staff on proper hand washing and mask wearing protocol.
    • Frequently cleaning and disinfecting all common areas, including twice daily flushing of all circulated air in the building.
    • Relocating work groups and rearranging staff seating to ensure adequate social distancing.
    • Installing plexiglass and barriers between work and customer services stations.
    • Requiring that all ballot and mail processing staff wear gloves and training them on proper glove handling and requirements for how frequently gloves should be changed.
    • Limiting the number of people in-and-out of the building to only those who are essential to providing service to voters or processing ballots. 
  • What kinds of changes have you made because of COVID-19?

King County Elections has adapted both our service models and our physical space to keep our staff, visitors and voters safe.

Changes to our facility include installing barriers and plexiglass between work and customer service stations, creating one directional aisles and hallways, upgrading our HVAC system to ensure better air recycling, and implementing temperature screens for all employees and visitors to the building.

We’ve also re-envisioned our service to focus primarily on curbside and outdoor walk-up service. For voters who need to come in-person, either to register or get a replacement ballot, we’ll also offer the option of “pre-ordering” your ballot or “pre-registering” to reduce the amount of time voters will spend on-site.

Once on-site voters will check-in with curbside staff who will get their information and direct them to parking location. The Elections team member will then process their registration and/or print their ballot and return to the voter’s vehicle with materials in hand. The voter is welcome to fill-out their ballot right then-and-there and drop it in the drop box or take it home to complete later.

  • Can I take a tour or visit the ballot processing facility right now?

One of the most important ways we can keep our team safe is to minimize the number of people coming-in-and-out of the building, so, at present, we are not allowing public visitors or tours.  

The good news is there are lots of other ways you can stay connected with King County Elections. You can observe ballot processing live through our upgraded webcams. You can also keep up with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to get recent news, updates, and behind-the-scenes looks.

3 thoughts on “Elections in the time of COVID-19

  1. Rich Lins, the Stamp Guy September 22, 2020 / 6:28 am

    Does your organization support requiring including prepaid postage return envelops for all mailed in ballots?

    • hawatkinskce September 22, 2020 / 9:34 am

      We sure do! In fact, our Director pushed for prepaid postage in 2017 and we made the official move to prepaid in 2018, prompting the legislature to expand it statewide that same year. Prepaid postage removes a barrier to voting and we’re proud to have played a role in making it a reality for Washington voters.

  2. DF September 23, 2020 / 11:24 am

    What security measures are you taking to prevent mail-in-ballot voter fraud?

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