OKANOGAN - Changes in Washington voting laws went into effect July 1.
The Legislature passed several bills during the 2018 and 2019 sessions that changed dates and deadlines for registration and voting, said the Okanogan County Auditor’s Office.
Those changes include:
-Pre-paid postage: Every ballot will now come with a pre-paid ballot-return envelope so voters will no longer have to search for a stamp. Every mailbox is now a drop box, though auditors recommend mailing ballots by the Friday preceding an election day to ensure it gets postmarked in time.
-Online voter registration: The 2019 primary election is Tuesday, Aug. 6.
If residents are eligible to vote but are not yet registered, they have until Monday, July 29, for online or mail registrations to be received. They'll also have until Monday, Oct. 28, for online or mail registrations to be received in time for the Nov. 5 general election.
After those dates, eligible residents will have to register in person at their county elections office. Online registration can be completed at www.VoteWA.gov.
-Same-day registration: If potential voters can’t get registered online or by mail before the eight-day deadline, they can visit their county elections office in person during regular business hours and any time before 8 p.m. on Aug. 6 to vote in the primary and Nov. 5 to vote in the general election.
-Future voters: 16- and 17-year-old residents can now enroll in the future voter program to be registered automatically to vote on their 18th birthday. Future voters who turn 18 on or before Tuesday, Aug. 6, can vote in the 2019 primary, while those who turn 18 on or before Tuesday, Nov. 5, can vote in this year’s general election.
County auditors have long fought for the Legislature to fully fund elections in Washington, noting that counties are required to pay for the state’s share in even-year elections - when most state offices are on the ballot.
Though some of the new election laws will place additional burdens on already resource-strapped counties, auditors and election directors say their top priority is to ensure secure and accurate elections to reinforce confidence in the process with the voting public.