Every ballot must be assigned to a registered voter. Because Washington is an all-mail-in state, each registered voter is issued a ballot as long as their status is on record as “active”. If there are extra people on the list of registered voters whose status for various reasons should be inactive but are still on record as active, there will be extra ballots in circulation that shouldn’t be and can potentially be used nefariously.
What can be done about this? There is a process available to remove people from the list who are not eligible to vote. For years, the public has assumed that the list is being properly maintained. After taking a closer look, however, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
If such is the reality, can this problem be remedied? One solution is a legal pathway available to remove the extra voters from the list and reduce the number of excess ballots floating around.
Legal Path Forward
RCW 29A.08.810 lays out the basis for challenging a voter’s registration. Any registered voter may bring challenges to another voter’s registration. The state law also requires challengers to have personal knowledge of a voter’s ineligibility to vote.
If the goal is the remove the voter before ballots are issued, or before the voter’s ballot is counted, challenges must be filed at least 45 days before an election. If the voter becomes registered at an address within 60 days of an election, then the challenge must be filed 10 days before the election or 10 days after the voter is registered, whichever is later, according to RCW 29A.08.820.
Here to Help
Here you can find tools to help you challenge voter’s registrations for people who are not eligible or who are nowhere to be found.
Take responsibility by checking on your own precinct!
Steps to Challenge a Voter’s Registration
1. Us the search tool to get a list of voters in your precinct. Right click on the list and print it out. Verify the voters on the list. Visit the addresses of unknown voters. Make a friendly visit and speak to the people at the address in question. If there are people registered there that the current residents don’t recognize, ask them to sign an affidavit. You can find an affidavit template below. Getting them to sign the affidavit will be the hardest part of the challenge process. There is still more work that goes into it, but our goal is to make the remaining steps as easy as possible for you.
2. Go to whitepages.com and search for the voter’s name. Print out the search page. Two copies would be a good idea.
3. Go online to the county property records, and search by name, if possible, to determine if the voter owns property in the county.
4. Send a letter to the voter’s registered address. On the envelope you should write, “Return Service Requested.” This step can be performed before steps 2 and/or 3 if confident that the registration record isn’t accurate. The sooner this letter gets sent the sooner the challenge can be submitted.
Give the voter some time to respond to your letter. We suggest a 14 day grace period to allow voters sufficient time to update their registration information is fair. In the meantime, you can work on the rest of the documents needed for the challenge.
5. Fill out this form to serve as an affidavit from you, the challenger. This will be submitted along with the other documents for the challenge.
6. Submit all documents to your county auditor, along with this challenge form.
What to Expect
After submitting a challenge, the auditor will review all the documents submitted, and decide whether or not all requirements are met to proceed with the challenge. If not, you will need to submit whatever is missing. If the documents you submit are sufficient, the challenge will move forward.
The voter will be sent a notification from the county, notifying them of the challenge. A hearing date will be set. You may need to attend, but will need to wait for instruction from the county.
Some hearings may be virtual or in person. If the challenged voter doesn’t reply or show up to the hearing, they will be marked inactive until they resolve any issues with their registration data.
The county elections official or County Canvassing Board will preside over the hearing. Final determination of the challenge may be appealed in Superior Court. The challenged voter’s information will also be published on the county auditor’s website within 72 hours of the challenge being accepted by the auditor.
After 2 general election cycles are complete, and the voter has still not updated their information while inactive, they will be removed from the list.
Complete all of the following forms to submit for the challenge. (Same files as above)