Let us help you be an informed voter

By Carolyn Weikel

This presidential election year, I am excited to see so many people engaged and interested in participating in the Nov. 6 General Election. I am also reminded how in each election some voters cause themselves needless anxiety and extra effort. I encourage you to be an informed voter to ensure your ballot can be properly counted.

An informed voter understands there are voter registration deadlines and takes action now.

We expect that more than 350,000 people in Snohomish County will vote in this Nov. 6 general election. We also expect 20,000 new voters will register in the weeks leading up to Election Day. With so many people participating in the process, an informed voter takes early action to ensure their voice will be heard.

New voters and current voters who need to update their information have until Oct. 8 to register to vote or make changes online or through the mail. However, Oct. 8 is a postal holiday. If you register through the mail, please mail your form by today to make sure it is postmarked on time. New voters can also register in person at the County Auditor’s Office until Oct. 29. But don’t wait! Register to vote or update your voter registration information now!

An informed voter learns about the races and issues that will appear on the ballot.

Around the middle of October, a voters’ pamphlet will be sent to every household in Snohomish County. The 2012 General Election voters’ pamphlet contains useful information to help you make informed decisions. This pamphlet includes statements and photos from candidates who are running for office; pro and con statements for state and local ballot measures; instructions on how to properly vote your ballot; and locations of return ballot drop boxes and accessible voting sites.

An informed voter reads and follows the ballot directions.

Instructions on how to properly mark a ballot and return it to your county elections office come with every ballot, appear in the voters’ pamphlet, and are available on our website. Much care is taken to ensure that these instructions are clear and comprehensive. Yet, each election, some voters fail to read and follow directions. We make every effort to help voters resolve issues such as failing to sign the return envelope so we can count their ballots. Failing to follow instructions needlessly risks having part or all of your ballot not counted.

An informed voter returns their voted ballot as soon as practical and prior to 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 6.

Do not wait until the last minute to vote! Washington state is a vote by mail state. All registered voters should receive a ballot in the mail no later than Wednesday, Oct. 24. Please vote and return your ballot as soon as practical. A voter has a number of options to return their ballot: by mail, by utilizing one of 11 secure 24 hour ballot drop boxes located throughout the county or by returning it to the Auditor’s Office. Avoid lines by returning your ballot as soon as you can. You do not have to wait until Election Day to vote or to drop off your ballot.

An informed voter knows what tools are available to help them.

Snohomish County and the Washington State Office of the Secretary of State have a number of online tools available to make sure you are ready to fully participate.

At www.myvote.wa.gov you can:

•Register to vote.

Confirm that you are a registered voter.

Update your address.

find what districts you will be voting in,

Learn about the general election candidates and ballot measures.

Find locations where you can return your ballot if you choose not to mail it.

At www.snoco.org\elections you can verify that your ballot has been received and find much of the same information that is available on the MyVote site.

It is my goal that every eligible citizen who wants to vote in this year’s election has the opportunity. Taking these steps will help ensure you are ready when ballots are mailed on Oct. 18.

You can contact our Elections and Voter Registration Division staff at 425-388-3444 if you have any questions about participating in this year’s elections. Let us help you be an informed voter!

Carolyn Weikel is the Snohomish County Auditor.