Voting: My How the Times Are A-changin'

Times they are a-changin'! Used to be, you could walk to your polling place, greet the poll inspector (often your precinct committee person or a long-time neighbor), sign the polling place record book, and then go into a polling booth and pull a lever. Later, with similar steps, you were issued a paper ballot and a pen.

Today, almost every voter in King County votes by mail. If you're new to this area or you haven't voted before, you may not know what that means. Even if you have voted here for years, this information may help you help a friend, neighbor, or younger family member take advantage of their right to vote.

Check your voter registration status online via King County Elections' Voter Lookup page.

Vote by Mail

Since 2009, King County elections have been conducted by mail, which means that voters receive their ballots through the mail. Ballots are mailed 20 days prior to the election to the address on your registration. If you have moved, check your registration status at Voter Lookup and then contact King County Elections at 206-296-VOTE (8683) to update your registration.

You can vote and return your ballot as soon as you receive it. To return your ballot, use a first class stamp or carry it to an official ballot drop box or van. You can track your ballot's progress by using the online Ballot Tracker. For more information, visit Voting by Mail in King County.

Note: You must be registered to vote to participate in the electoral process. See Registering to Vote, below.

Accessible Voting

King County accessible voting centers are open to any voter who may have difficulty completing a mail ballot without assistance or anyone who would like to vote privately and independently. Accessible voting at King County Elections began July 20 for the August 7 primary. Additional locations open on August 3—all are open, with extended hours, on election day.

To watch a video that shows how to use an accessible voting machine, click on the photo above.

Where's My 2012 Voters Pamphlet?

King County has published a Primary Election Voters' Pamphlet, which voters should receive by mail. The pamphlet includes state and federal races in addition to local races and measures. If you need a King County voters guide in an alternate format (such as audio), contact King County Elections at 206-296-VOTE (8683).

The Washington Secretary of State has not mailed a printed voter guide for state and federal offices; however, the State's 2012 Primary Election Voters Guide is available online. In addition, you may appreciate hearing and seeing candidates on TVW's Video Voters Guide.

Registering to Vote

Any U.S. citizen who is at least 18 years old by election day, a legal resident of Washington state, and not disqualified from voting due to incarceration or a court order can register to vote. You do not have to register by political party or state a party preference in any state primary or general election.

The deadline to register for the August 7 Primary Election was July 30. To vote in the November 6, 2012 Presidential Election, you must be registered by October 29. To register, you have several options:

You can change your registration address online or in person but should do so more than 29 days before the election (e.g., October 8).

If you're unsure about your voter registration status or the candidates and ballot measures in your district and precinct, visit Voter Lookup.


If you have any questions about upcoming elections, call the King County Elections Office at 206-296-VOTE (8683) or use the Contact King County Elections online form.

—Irene Stewart, Aging and Disability Services

King County Elections: Tips for Voting

  • Read the ballot, envelope and voters' pamphlet carefully
  • Use a black ink pen to fill out your ballot
  • Remove and recycle the stub at the top of the ballot
  • Sign the declaration on the back of the return envelope
  • Do not put multiple ballots in one envelope
  • Lost or damaged ballot? Questions? Call 206-296-VOTE (8683)