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.

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Here’s how to Track your Ballot…and More!

Election Day is approaching and you’re wondering: where’s my ballot? Or you’re not even sure if you’re registered.


We’ve now made it easier than ever to find the information you need. Our new My Voter Information application helps you view your voter registration, track your ballot and even check your voting history.

Voters can see their current voter registration information, as well as the deadlines to update their registered address. And, voters eligible for the current election can see their voter registration details for the election. They can also see the candidates and measures on their ballot with links to the candidates’ statements in the voters’ pamphlet.

During an election, you can track your ballot at four different stages.

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Removing Barriers to Voting

When I was running to be your Director of Elections, I attended a candidate forum organized by a Vietnamese-American civic group. I asked the audience of about 100 people to raise their hands if they knew King County Elections translated voting materials into Vietnamese. To my surprise, only one person raised their hand. I knew then that we needed to work harder for a more inclusive voting process.

Voter Education Fund Group 2
Recipients of the Voter Education Fund

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Did millions of ineligible people cast votes in the November election?

Allegations of voter fraud have dominated news headlines lately. But are these claims plausible? Last year, King County Elections Director Julie Wise told the Seattle Times that claims of widespread voter fraud were “wrong. Not true. Inaccurate.” Secretary of State Kim Wyman also called them “baseless” and “irresponsible.” And Matthew Masterson, chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, defended the 2016 General Election as being “extremely well administered.”


Data from the Brennan Center for Justice validate that assessment. Researchers interviewed elections administrators in 42 jurisdictions, including King County, and found that… “improper noncitizen votes accounted for 0.0001% of the 2016 votes [23.5 million] in those jurisdictions.”

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Voting while Homeless

In 2011, Washington State shifted to vote by mail. For every election in which you are eligible to vote, we mail you a ballot with measures and candidates specific to your address. While vote by mail has improved voter access for many, not all voting-age residents have a traditional address. In the 2016 King County One Night Count, over 10,000 people, the majority of which are of voting age, were counted as being homeless. These people are staying in many places ranging from encampments to emergency shelters and transitional housing. So how do they get access to voting?

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King County Elections 2017 Legislative Priorities


The 2017 Washington State legislative session opened this week, and we wanted to let you know about our priorities for this session. We have five main priorities to make voting as accessible and barrier-free as possible. Ultimately, we believe that improving voting accesses makes government more representative of the public. Here’s a look at our top legislative priorities:

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How we get Dead Voters off the Rolls

Here’s a question we get from time to time: What happens to your voter registration if you die? Can someone vote as you? Once you die, there’s really nothing mysterious about your voter registration. When we learn a voter has passed away, we simply cancel their registration.


Over the last year we’ve removed more than 8,500 deceased voters from registration rolls. We learn about a voter’s death through a few ways. Each day we check newspaper obituaries to see who has died. We cross reference the name, date of birth, location or any other pertinent information in each obituary with our voter registration database.

Another way to confirm death is through information that is shared with us from other government agencies: The Washington State Department of Health and the Washington Secretary of State’s office, which sends us social security information.

The final way we learn of a voter’s death is through another voter, usually a family member. These notifications typically come in a few days after ballots have been sent out. Over the last year, 600 voters reported the death of another voter.

If a voter you know has passed away, fill out and sign a deceased voter registration cancellation form. If someone accidentally gets canceled, their registration can be reactivated within three years. After three years, canceled registrations become permanent and the voter would have to register again.

Updating Your Signature

When it comes to our signatures, most of us have changed the way we sign our names over time. As a teenager, maybe you dotted the “I” in your name with a heart. Or you got married and changed your name. Either way, our signatures change with the passage of time.

This week we sent out 13,570 letters asking registered voters to update their signatures with us. The letters were sent to voters whose signatures have changed over time and therefore a more current signature of record is needed.


Each election we compare the signature on a voter’s return ballot envelope to the signature from their voter registration file. Our team analyzes the voter’s handwriting, looking for indicators such as slants, strokes and spacing. By law, the signatures need to match for us to accept the voter’s ballot. This is why keeping your signature updated with us is so important.

A voter who receives a signature update letter this week has had their signature verified and their vote counted. However, our team has determined that the voter’s signature is beginning to look different from the one in their voter registration file. We recommend the voter updates their signature now to avoid any issues with their ballots in the future.

You can always voluntarily update your signature with us by completing this form. Questions? Call us at 206-296-VOTE (8683) or email us at


What Can We Learn From Voter Registration Cards?

When Washington became a state in 1889, state law established that each registered voter would receive a certification containing the following information:


Early voter registration cards established where a citizen lived and voted. The voter registration card you receive in the mail today provides similar information, but we’ve had some updates roll out in the meantime. Can you spot the differences?


  • Today’s voter registration cards have your voter ID number. Your voter ID number is unique to you and allows us to easily locate your voter registration file anytime you have questions or need to update your voter information.
  • In addition to your precinct, your voter card also displays congressional, legislative, county council and city council districts.
  • Notice the reference to “he” in line 7. According to the Washington Secretary of State’s office, “in 1854, Washington nearly became the first state to grant women’s suffrage, but the proposal was defeated by a single vote.” It wasn’t until 1910 that Washington state amended its Constitution to grant women the right to vote, 10 years before the rest of the country!

Now that Washington is a vote-by-mail state, why do we need a voter registration card?
Your voter registration card serves not only as an acknowledgement of your registration but also gives you the opportunity to ensure that your name and address are correct. This is important because your address determines what measures and candidate races are on your ballot!

To learn more, check out The History of Elections and Voting in Washington.