The ballad of ballots has begun.
Like the next note in a common melody, Walla Walla County Elections Supervisor Dave Valiant knows the question that keeps on coming up whenever his staff members answer the phone: “Where’s my ballot?”
The answer: Many ballots should have arrived over the weekend, Valiant said. And you can always ask his department for more information.
“Lots of questions about ballots,” Valiant said Friday at the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds pavilion where his team has set up a temporary shop.
The makeshift operating space is like a mirror of the 2020 general election — much bigger and a bit more chaotic than planned.
But Valiant said the department has been rolling with the punches, and he’s proud of the work that has been done in a short time.
Valiant said past elections — particularly primaries — have been a dud when it comes to voter turnout.
“(In some primaries) people were asleep at the wheel,” he said.
Valiant said he was glad to see more than 36,000 voters already registered, which is by far more than he’s ever seen since he started working for the county about seven years ago, he said.
The high number of early registrants has led to many early questions, too. Valiant said he knows news reports from other states and concerns raised by political candidates have increased the curiosity and fervor of voters.
But he said there’s not much to worry about, because Washington has been here before.
“We’ve already been doing this,” Valiant said of voting by mail, although same-day registration will be different this year.
With voting in full swing, here are some key things to remember, according to Valiant and voter registration coordinator Amelia Odeen:
Missing your ballot? It should be arriving soon in the mail if you haven’t received it already. If you don’t receive it in the next few days, you can check out vote.wa.gov
- to see the status of your ballot, or you can ask the county elections department for help.
- Help is readily available at the pavilion elections center: an accessible voting machine for the deaf, blind or hard of hearing; sample ballots; privacy voting booths; customer service workers; provisional ballot printing; and registration forms in English and Spanish.
- Security cameras have been placed around the pavilion for security purposes, including a 360-degree camera at the ballot handling stations.
- Observers or “poll watchers” are a common practice, but they are not allowed into the tabulation area. Observers must be in the designated watching area. Each political party sends a trained, designated observer on Election Day and candidates and the general public may observe, too.
- The last day to accept online or mailed registration forms is Oct. 26. After that, those wanting to register will have to do so in person at the pavilion.
- A sandwich board will be placed at the Walla Walla Post Office reminding people that using the mail system on Election Day is not the best way to turn in their ballots. Ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3, which may not happen even if they’re mailed that day.
- Same-day registration is available, but those planning to do so are encouraged not to wait. However, those in line to register by 8 p.m. on Election Day will still be able to vote. The last person in line will receive a document indicating they are the final person in line.
- Secure ballot boxes are available across the county and are a good option for dropping off ballots because of the convenience and security. They will be open until 8 p.m. on Election Day. They’re at the county courthouse, Walla Walla Fire Station No. 2, College Place City Hall, Columbia Elementary School in Burbank, Waitsburg City Hall and the Touchet School District building.
- Elections workers will contact those who cast “rejected” ballots to attempt to fix or verify them. Votes are not tossed out.
- Those registering online need a state driver’s license to do so. Many people haven’t been able to update licenses because of the Department of Licensing office being closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, which means those people will likely have to register in-person.
Jedidiah Maynes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 509-526-8318.