In coordination with Washington’s 39 county election officials, the Office of the Secretary of State Wednesday issued an emergency rule change that requires county officials to use First Class mail when sending ballot packets to voters beginning at least 15 days before Election Day.

“Closer to Election Day, many counties throughout Washington already switch over to First Class mail to ensure voters receive materials with enough time to cast their ballots,” said Secretary of State Kim Wyman. “This will provide more consistency statewide, and give voters some peace of mind heading into the Nov. 3 General Election.”

By law, ballots must be sent to voters no later than Oct. 16. This initial mailing is sent via a nonprofit bulk rate, guaranteeing a three- to 10-day delivery window. Under the new rule, all subsequent ballot mailings, like replacement ballots or ballots for newly registered voters, would be mailed via First Class at least 15 days prior to Nov. 3. Ballots sent using the First Class rate have a delivery window between two and five days.

Commenting on the emergency rule change, Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton stated:

“As election officials, we are charged with preserving the integrity of elections in counties throughout the state. One of the ways in which we do this is to ensure voters will be able to cast their ballots safely, securely, and in a timely manner. First Class postage gives us resources to make sure we provide as much time as possible for voters to cast their ballot.”

The United States Postal Service recommends voters return their ballots by mail a week before Election Day. Return envelopes included in ballot packets sent to voters contain prepaid First Class postage and must receive a postmark no later than Election Day. Voters should check their mailbox collection times if mailing within a week before Election Day or use one of the nearly 500 ballot drop boxes located throughout the state. Drop boxes are open through 8 p.m. Nov. 3.

The Secretary of State’s Office and county election officials encourage people to visit VoteWA.gov before Oct. 26 to ensure their voter registration record is up to date or register to vote. People may also register by mailing in a paper form, or by visiting a county elections office or voting center. Eight days prior to Election Day, county offices are open during business hours up until 8 p.m. on election night. Hours and locations for in-person services prior to Oct. 27 vary by county. 

The 2020 General Election is Tuesday, Nov. 3.