Vote-by-mail ballot-return patterns

The ballots are coming, the ballots are coming. On Thursday, nearly 400,000 of them will be mailed to voters in Snohomish County for the Aug. 7 primary. County officials are able to predict when ballots will be returned based on past elections. The return flow has been pretty much unchanged since 2006, when the county switched to all-mail balloting. Below is a chart of when Snohomish County expects to receive ballots for this primary. You can also download the PDF at right to see a more visual representation of the prediction.

Within a week of their mailing, about 25 percent of ballots will be marked and returned for counting. Nearly half the votes will be cast before Election Day.

Figures in the chart are based on 400,000 ballots being issued and 176,000 returned for a turnout of 44 percent.

By law, ballots received more than 14 days after the election will not be counted, leaving as many as 136 uncounted.

If you are wondering why ballots are mailed Thursday but the county won’t start tracking their return until next Monday, July 23, the answer is because the county is closed on weekends. What arrives Saturday is not picked up until Monday.

Implications for campaigning

How fast do you send back your ballot for counting? Right away? On Election Day? Somewhere in between? Turns out voters do it all three ways, adding a degree of difficulty for candidates trying to reach them at just the right time.

When everyone voted at polling places, there always seemed to be a concentration of mailers and commercials in the final four days of the election as candidates sought to make a final impression on voters. With everyone voting by mail and half the votes cast before Election Day, candidates carefully time advertising and direct-mail campaigns to reach the most people near the time of their decisions.

Track your own ballot

You can find out when your ballot is received. A link will be added to the Snohomish County elections home page at

Projected pattern of ballot return, 2012 primary election

Date Ballots expected
Monday, July 23, 2012 1,046
Tuesday, July 24, 2012 9,671
Wednesday, July 25, 2012 11,985
Thursday, July 26, 2012 13,416
Friday, July 27, 2012 7,897
Saturday, July 28, 2012 0
Sunday, July 29, 2012 0
Monday, July 30, 2012 9,550
Tuesday, July 31, 2012 12,555
Wednesday, Aug. 01, 2012 9,249
Thursday, Aug. 02, 2012 7,503
Friday, Aug. 03, 2012 7,495
Saturday, Aug. 04, 2012 0
Sunday, Aug. 05, 2012 0
Monday, Aug. 06, 2012 14,888
Tuesday, Aug. 07, 2012 23,822
Wednesday, Aug. 08, 2012 31,896
Thursday, Aug. 09, 2012 13,085
Friday, Aug. 10, 2012 799
Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012 6
Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012 0
Monday, Aug. 13, 2012 157
Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012 275
Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012 104
Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012 104
Friday, Aug. 17, 2012 357
Saturday, Aug. 18, 2012 0
Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012 0
Monday, Aug. 20, 2012 5
Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012 116
Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012 17
Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012 3
Friday, Aug. 24, 2012 0
Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012 0
Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012 0
Monday, Aug. 27, 2012 0
Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012 0
Total for 44% turnout 176,000

SOURCE: Snohomish County Auditor

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