Decision time arrives for 500,000 Snohomish County voters

Ballots are to be mailed Thursday. Turnout in Snohomish County is expected to be near 85%.

The 2020 General Election voter's pamphlet

EVERETT — Snohomish County voters won’t have to wait much longer to make their choices in the Nov. 3 election.

Ballots were to be mailed Thursday to 500,000 registered voters — the most ever in a countywide election.

And the county’s chief election officer is encouraging voters to not wait until the last minute to return them.

“We’re excited to get the ballots out. I think voters are excited to get them,” said county Auditor Garth Fell. “We’re just hopeful they act early. That will ensure there is time to make certain they can resolve any issues that might arise.”

Voting in this year’s supercharged election is already under way in other counties. Ballots arrived in mailboxes in Thurston County last weekend. Other counties, including King, were mailing their ballots to voters on Wednesday.

With an energized electorate, Fell thinks at least 85% of Snohomish County voters will participate.

As elections go, this is a big one. Snohomish County voters are going to help choose a president, a governor, three members of Congress and a slew of state legislators. Statewide, voters will determine the fate of a controversial sex education law with Referendum 90. Seats on the Snohomish County Council and Snohomish County Public Utility District are are on the ballot, and levies for area fire districts are to be decided.

Returning ballots won’t cost any money.

They can be placed in any of the county’s 30 designated drop boxes. Or they can be mailed without a stamp. Ballot-return envelopes do need to be postmarked no later than Nov. 3. Every election, there are ballots that do not get counted because they arrive too late. The U.S. Postal Service recommends mailing them at least a week before Election Day.

Conduct of the election will be monitored closely, with widespread concern surrounding ballot security and election fraud.

“The process is open for observation by the public,” Fell said. Observers will need to wear a mask, maintain physical distance and abide other rules in place due the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

Drop boxes will be emptied daily and possibly more frequently closer to Election Day, Fell said. Workers, in groups of two for safety and security, will make the pick-ups. On Nov. 3, a pair of workers will be deployed to close each of the 30 boxes at 8 p.m.

As ballots are received, they are kept in a secured location at a county facility and require a minimum of two employees to be present to process, Fell said. Signatures are checked and ballots are opened and initially scanned before Election Day. Results cannot be tabulated and released until 8 p.m. on election night.

Already, voter pamphlets containing information on candidates and ballot measures have arrived at residences throughout the county.

When none showed up at a retirement home in Edmonds, a resident contacted the county elections department and the Secretary of State’s Office. Fell said a batch did get delivered, and his office has not been informed of any other retirement homes not receiving pamphlets.

There is still time to register as a voter or to update your registration. You can do it online at www.vote.wa.gov until Oct. 26. After that date, a person can go into the county auditor’s office until 8 p.m. on Election Day to register and vote. Same-day registration is the result of a law enacted in 2018.

In addition, in the final week of the election, accessible voting equipment for voters with disabilities will be available at the county auditor’s office, 3000 Rockefeller Ave. in Everett.

If you have not received a ballot by Oct. 21 or have questions, contact the Snohomish County elections office at 425-388-3444.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

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