The League of Women Voters is committed to Defending our Democracy. One major way that democracy works is voting. Misinformation campaigns have begun to undermine confidence in our elections and yet elections officials adhere to strict rules in every state to ensure integrity in our elections every year.
To learn what happens to your ballot once it arrives in the Thurston County Elections office, watch this video.
The League of Women Voters of Washington has, with the collaboration of Leagues across the state, written 34 facts about elections. We urge our members and those who use our site to pass them on.
Facts About Elections
- Our elections are safe, and your vote is secure. According to a Brennan Center for Justice report, an American is more likely to “be struck by lightning” than be impersonated at the polls. America’s elections are among the safest and most secure worldwide.
- The right to vote is reserved only for U.S. citizens and is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. By law noncitizens are prohibited from registering to vote. If an undocumented immigrant or a documented resident alien attempts to register or vote, they risk being permanently deported. The risks are just too high compared to the rewards, if any, of casting just one vote in an election that noncitizens rarely intentionally attempt to vote. There are a handful of cases nationally of inadvertent registration by noncitizens, but those instances are inadvertent registration by noncitizens, but those instances are found in routine checks. All American citizens have the right to vote.
- Every American citizen in Washington state of voting age can register to vote. Each voter registration is checked to be sure that person is who they say they are, even if they share the same name with another person. A birthdate and either a Washington state ID or a Social Security number are required to register. One person, one registration, one vote. Always.
- Replacement ballots are available. Though rare, sometimes a voter doesn’t receive their ballot in the mail, or a ballot may get damaged during handling. Voters may simply call their county elections office, which will mail a replacement ballot. Or the voter can download and print a ballot and signature declaration from the elections office website or VoteWA.gov. Both replacement ballot options require the ballot to be returned to the respective county elections office to be counted. Replacement ballots are safe and secure. Again, only one ballot can be counted for each voter.
- Using an official ballot drop box is secure. Designated officials, working in pairs, open drop boxes and remove and deliver the ballots to their respective county elections office regularly. Ballot drop boxes are strong to prevent tampering and are highly secure. Ballots deposited in drop boxes are safe.
- All ballots are tracked and verified. The ballot-counting process begins with signature Once they are validated, outer envelopes are opened to remove any connection to the voter’s identity. Next, the anonymous security envelopes or sleeves are opened, and ballots are flattened. Finally, votes are counted, and ballots are preserved. At every point, the exact same number of ballots that move from the previous station must be accounted for at the next. From the moment they arrive, ballots are tracked and kept safe.
- Signatures must pass multiple checks. Signatures are examined using Washington State Patrol procedures. If a ballot turns up without a signature, the voter is contacted and given until the last day before the end of the canvass period (the period from Election Day until the results are certified) to provide a signature that matches their official ballot signature. Election offices vigilantly match signatures before validating a ballot.
- Vote-counting machines record the votes as they are entered. Scanners read the votes off a ballot and enter those numbers in the database. If a program is installed incorrectly, votes could appear for the wrong candidate. To protect our right to vote and ensure votes are counted accurately, premade test decks of ballots are used to check for problems. In a test deck, all results are known beforehand, and if the tabulator results do not match, the machine is reprogrammed and then retested until they do. Vote- tabulating machines record all votes as they appear on each cast ballot.
- Not all ballots can be counted on election night. Election results are not final until all ballots are counted, and the results are Ballots received after Election Day may still be counted if they are postmarked on or before Election Day. Election officials will continue to process mailed ballots with acceptable postmarks until certification. Especially in close races, it may appear as if the winners are “flipping” during the counting process. But preliminary results, especially when the outcome is close, do sometimes change because they are just that—preliminary.
- American elections are secure. Multiple layers of safeguards prevent outside interference from other countries. That we have a decentralized system, where elections occur at the local level, reinforces this. Across the country, in each state and in each county, election officials work diligently to keep elections safe from outside interference.