Two Snohomish County Auditor’s Office workers removed the filled blue plastic tubs inside a drop box in front of the Mukilteo Library on Election Day 2018 and placed empty tubs inside to catch the next round of ballots. (Andrea Brown / Herald file)

Two Snohomish County Auditor’s Office workers removed the filled blue plastic tubs inside a drop box in front of the Mukilteo Library on Election Day 2018 and placed empty tubs inside to catch the next round of ballots. (Andrea Brown / Herald file)

Naked voting is OK. Just make sure you sign your ballot.

Weird laws and other fun facts about voting.

Ballots can be naked in the state of Washington. In Pennsylvania, those without proper attire aren’t welcome.

What’s up with that?

Most aspects of elections are regulated by states, not the feds.

To require voters to sleeve or not to sleeve a mail-in vote in an envelope is up to the state. So is letting people cast a ballot by mail instead of lining up to punch a card in a curtained cubicle. The decision to allow felony offenders to vote is also up to the state.

In a dozen states, Election Day is a state holiday.

When I lived in Indiana, on Election Day I couldn’t even get a beer. Grocery stores roped off the alcohol aisles and bars couldn’t open until after the polls closed.

Indiana was among the last six states to finally lift the lingering Prohibition-era alcohol ban in the last decade. You’d think if any day called for a stiff one it would be this day.

In the old days, political candidates ensured liquor flowed freely on election days to help them influence the undecided. Google has it that George Washington in a bid for the Virginia House of Burgesses spent his entire campaign budget, 50 pounds, on 160 gallons of liquor served to 391 people. That’s like six cups of booze per person.

This year, more states are offering mail-in ballots as an alternative to waiting for hours at the polls.

You can be naked when you vote at home, but your ballot might not be clothing-optional.

“Naked ballot” is the “hanging chad” catchphrase of 2020. Ballots mailed without an inside privacy sleeve are deemed naked. In Pennsylvania, naked ballots are disqualified. This potentially could tip the swing state’s election and decide the next president.

Two Pennsylvania county councilwomen posed topless behind the mandatory secrecy envelope to get the point across. Celebrities such as Chris Rock, Amy Schumer, Mark Ruffalo, Sarah Silverman and Tiffany Haddish stripped down in a video to raise awareness about the rules.

Our state began vote-by-mail elections in 2005, yet we still find ways to mess it up.

In Washington’s 2019 November election, out of 2 million ballots counted statewide, about one of every 100 got tossed for a late postmark, unmatched signature or for being unsigned.

We can drink and smoke pot on Election Day, which came in handy in 2016. And it might come in handy for whoever takes the White House in this “cursed” year.

Here’s more about that and other election trivia:

The curse

It’s known as the “20 Year Presidential Curse” — a pattern of deaths of presidents in office who were elected in years that are evenly divisible by 20 from 1840 to 1960.

It started in 1840, when William Henry Harrison caught a cold at his inauguration and died of pneumonia a month later. Abraham Lincoln, first elected in 1860 and re-elected four years later, was assassinated in 1865. James A. Garfield was shot in 1881 and three months later died of blood poisoning. William McKinley died a week after he was shot in 1901. Warren G. Harding, elected in 1920, died midterm. Franklin D. Roosevelt, elected in 1940 for a third term, died of natural causes in 1945 several months after taking office for a fourth term. John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.

The curse has taken a break since, but with some close calls. Ronald Reagan, elected in 1980, survived an assassination attempt. George W. Bush in 2002 choked on a pretzel and fainted as he watched a football game in his White House bedroom. He got a scrape and a bruise on his face from falling off a couch.

Felonious voting

In Florida, there is a contentious battle over voters with felonies who have unpaid fees. In September, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg put together a fund of over $16 million to pay fines. Prior to 2019, Floridians with felony convictions lost their right to vote for life.

Washington is among some 20 states where felons lose their voting rights until their prison term is served and they’ve completed community custody.

In Indiana and some 15 other states, those convicted of a felony can vote after leaving the slammer, including those on parole, probation or with outstanding fines.

In the District of Columbia, Maine and Vermont, felons never lose their right to vote, even while behind bars.

Election Day

In 1792, federal law officially designated the first Tuesday in November as Election Day.

An early November date enabled voters to go to the polls on foot or by horse and buggy before winter storms hit. Many Americans were farmers then, so this date wasn’t during the busy harvest season.

It also fit with the time frame for the Electoral College meeting in December.

Age in office

Theodore Roosevelt was the youngest president at 42 when he took over after President William McKinley was assassinated. John F. Kennedy, at 43, was the youngest to be elected to the office.

Donald Trump is the oldest to be elected, at 70. Ronald Reagan was the oldest to hold the office — 77 when his term ended.

Biden turns 78 on Nov. 20. Trump is now 74.

As for voters, in 1971 the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reduced the voting age from 21 to 18.

Ballot boxes

The outside looks like an armored car.

Inside are blue plastic tubs that hold about 800 ballots and weigh up to 60 pounds.

Snohomish County Auditor Garth Fell said the county’s 30 drop boxes have room for between 1,000 and 5,000 ballots each, depending on the size.

The tubs are removed by teams of two people. Ballots are processed and scanned but not tabulated until after the polls have closed.


You know that signature box?

They actually do check. I speak from experience.

Mail-in ballots that are not signed are rejected until corrected. Signatures are matched against voter records before the envelope is separated from the ballot.

To check your ballot status, visit

Andrea Brown:; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.

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