Kevin Duncan puts his ballot in the ballot drop box outside of the Arlington Library on Feb. 11, in Arlington. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file photo)

Kevin Duncan puts his ballot in the ballot drop box outside of the Arlington Library on Feb. 11, in Arlington. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file photo)

Commentary: Get your ballots in early by mail or drop box

To make sure your ballot is counted and your voice heard get your ballot in; the earlier, the better.

By Garth Fell / For The Herald

Vote your Nov. 3 Presidential Election ballot today. That’s right, today!

Snohomish County voters have been safely voting by mail for the last 15 years. Every registered voter is sent a ballot to vote and return. Voting by mail allows you to cast your ballot well before Election Day; no need to wait.

So why am I encouraging you to vote today?

Presidential elections see our highest voter participation rates and we expect record turnout this year. In fact, we have already seen a record number of voters return their ballot early.

Voting and returning your ballot early benefits you, our elections workers and our community.

Each election there are ballots that can’t be counted because they are returned too late to be accepted or because voters forget to sign the outside envelope. Voting early makes sure your ballot is received on-time and allows us to work with you to resolve any issues before it’s too late.

We also know that voters who wait to register and vote will wait in longer lines around more people. During the covid-19 pandemic, voting early keeps you and our elections workers safe by reducing the number of people congregating at the last minute to register to vote, to return their ballot or to resolve an issue.

When you return your ballot early, your votes are included in Election Night results. Strong Election Night results can give us a good indication of likely winners. If you want your votes to be part of the Election Night results, you must vote early, before Election Day.

I have heard people say they plan to vote at one of our limited number of in-person sites because they beleive it’s more secure. This is not true.

Our in-person sites are meant for voters with disabilities and voters that have a last-minute issue that cannot be handled over the phone or online. Showing up in-person when you can vote using the mail ballot you have been sent puts yourself, our staff and the people that need in-person service at an increased risk during this pandemic.

If you show up in-person to vote, the ballot we give you is a mail ballot; envelopes and all. You will be required to take the ballot outside of the in-person site where you can vote and return it to a drop box or through the mail. The “in-person” ballot is processed the same way as the ballot you have already received in the mail; no more or no less secure.

Your mail ballot can be returned through a U.S. postal box or a ballot drop box. Both options are safe and neither option requires postage.

If you use a postal box, the U.S. Postal Service recommends mailing your ballot at least one week before the election. If you can’t mail your ballot back early, then make sure you check the last pick-up time on the blue postal box to ensure your ballot is postmarked on or before Election Day, Nov. 3.

If you choose to return you ballot to a ballot drop box, you have 30 drop boxes to choose from that are located throughout Snohomish County. The boxes close promptly at 8 p.m. on Election Night.

And it’s not too late to register to vote either. If you are not registered, you can register online at VoteWA.gov through Monday, Oct. 26 and still get a ballot sent to you in the mail. After Monday, you have in-person options to register and vote. But again, act today.

Need more information about the candidates or issues? Grab your voters’ pamphlet or go to VoteWA.gov to view a personalized guide with just the races and issues on your ballot.

The 2020 Presidential Election is important, and your vote matters. Your vote will help determine our next leaders and the direction of our country, our state and our Snohomish County community. Make sure your voice is heard.

Don’t delay; vote and return your ballot today!

Garth Fell was elected as Snohomish County Auditor in 2019 and previously served as the county’s election manager for 12 years.

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