Sound Off: Voting changes starting now

Voting in Island County is changing. Earlier this year, with the recommendation of myself, the Board of County Commissioners passed a resolution declaring that all of our elections will be conducted by mail. Island County voters voting by absentee ballot had grown to an overwhelming majority. At the time that the resolution passed, 34 counties in Washington were already vote-by-mail. Since then, all counties but one — Kittitas County — have either changed or declared their intention to change to vote-by-mail.

In the next couple of weeks, registered voters will be receiving basic information about the mail balloting process, but there are a few things that all Island County voters should know:

This is the first year of the earlier primary election date, the third Tuesday in August. This year the primary election will be Aug. 21.

In odd-numbered years, primary elections are required only if more than two candidates file for a single office. The Oak Harbor mayor and city council, the Oak Harbor School District director, and the Coupeville Town Council are the only offices with more than two candidates, so ONLY Oak Harbor School District and the Town of Coupeville voters will receive ballots for the Aug. 21 primary.

The general election will be Nov. 6. All of Island County will participate in the general election.

Active registered voters will receive a ballot automatically. Inactive registered voters will receive an application for a ballot. A voter may be inactive because mail was returned or because they have not voted for a long time.

Ballots for the primary will be mailed out about August 1.

If, as an active registered voter, you receive a ballot, follow the instructions to mark it and return it to us. If you mail it, the ballot must be postmarked by election day!

If, as an inactive registered voter, you receive an application for a ballot and you wish to vote in this election, please fill it out and return it as soon as possible so we can get a ballot to you.

Electronic voting machines will be available at certain locations for the use of disabled voters. These “disabled access units” are designed for voters who have visual or motor skill disabilities. They are equipped with earphones, sip-and-puff straw receptacles, and other accessories to provide expanded access, with the goal of allowing any voter to vote privately and independently. These machines are also equipped with a paper audit trail.

For the August primary election, these machines will be available from Aug. 1 through Aug. 20 at the Island County Administration Building in Coupeville during normal business hours. On Aug. 21, there will be a disabled access unit at the Oak Harbor School Administration Building and at the Island County Administration Building from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Ballots may also be delivered to these locations during the same times on election day. There will be a secure ballot box. Election workers will be on duty at these locations to assist voters if needed, and to provide a secure environment for the DAU and the ballot box.

Remember to sign your ballot return envelope. You cannot use a signature stamp, and a person with power of attorney cannot sign on your behalf. It is against the law to sign another voter’s name. We check all signatures. If we contact you because the signature does not match our records, we are doing this for your protection and to protect the integrity of your election. We appreciate your cooperation because we are trying to make sure no one else signed your ballot. If we are unable to resolve a mismatched signature, Washington law requires us to refer it to the prosecuting attorney for investigation.

If you have moved, you have until July 20 to transfer your registration to your new residence. If you are a new voter in Washington, you can register by mail until July 20, or you can register in person in the Auditor’s office through Aug. 6. We want everyone who is eligible to participate. If you are unsure if you are eligible, please call us. We are happy to help!

For more information call 679-7366.

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