Before a ballot is accepted for counting, the signature on the returned ballot envelope is compared to the signature(s) the County has on file for the voter to ensure the signatures match.
Elections staff performing this work are routinely trained in signature comparison techniques by current or former members of the Washington State Patrol who specialize in forensic handwriting analysis.
Signatures that do not match are flagged as challenged for second and, if appropriate, third review by senior staff. Flagged signature issues are not a sign of fraud. Signatures may be flagged as the result of a signature evolving over time, another member of the same household accidentally signing the wrong ballot envelope, or a voter forgetting to sign the ballot envelope entirely.
If a ballot is flagged as challenged, the voter is contacted and provided an opportunity to resolve the issue with their signature.
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Ballots returned through ballot drop boxes are routinely picked up by county election employees, working in teams of two. The ballot pick-up team seals the returned ballots in containers and transports them back to the county ballot processing facility, maintaining a thorough chain-of-custody throughout the process. At the county ballot processing facility, returned ballot envelopes are marked as received in the statewide voter registration and election management system.
You can track the receipt and acceptance of your ballot by visiting www.VoteWA.gov.
Ballots returned through the mail are securely handled and delivered to the county ballot processing facility and directly handed over to no fewer than two county elections employees. At the county ballot processing facility, returned ballot envelopes are marked received in the statewide voter registration and election management system.
Snohomish County Elections follows Washington state standards and best practice ballot-counting steps to maintain voter secrecy and ensure election integrity.
Ballots remain sealed in their return envelopes until the signatures are matched against the signatures on file for the voters. Once matched, return envelopes are batched into groups of 200 envelopes. A new workgroup then takes the batches of accepted envelopes and opens them in a two-step process to maintain the secrecy of the ballot.
In the first step staff remove the ballots still in their secrecy sleeves from the return envelopes. All the return envelopes are bundled and set aside. This breaks the connection between the return envelope which have voter information and the ballot which is still in the secrecy sleeve.
In the second step ballots are removed from the secrecy sleeves, unfolded and visually inspected to ensure the ballot counting equipment will be able to accurately read the votes.
A ballot status of “challenged” means that elections staff received your ballot but it cannot be accepted and counted until a challenge with the envelope is resolved. The most common challenge situations include voters failing to sign their return envelope, signatures on return envelopes not matching the signature in the voters’ registration records, and voters returning their ballot too late to be counted.
Voters with challenges related to signature issues have an opportunity to resolve the challenge and get their ballot counted. Snohomish County will notify you of a challenge by mail and by phone or email, if we have that contact information on file. To be counted, challenges must be resolved no later than the day before the election is certified.
If you have questions regarding the status of your ballot, please contact Snohomish County Elections at (425) 388-3444.
Certification of an election and the election results takes place 10 days after a February or April Special Election, 14 days after an August Primary, and 21 days after a November General Election.
The accuracy and validity of the election results are certified by the county canvassing board, comprised of the County Auditor, the Chair of the County Council, and the Prosecuting Attorney. Each member can designate a delegate, if they are unable to attend or fulfill their responsibilities.
The canvassing board receives reports from Snohomish County Elections on how the election was conducted. The board reviews any ballots that have unclear voter marks and makes a final decision on challenged ballots. If satisfied that the results are true and correct, the board certifies the final results of the election.