Pierce County auditor urges voters to be careful when marking primary ballot | KNKX

Pierce County auditor urges voters to be careful when marking primary ballot

Mar 3, 2020

Election officials in Western Washington say they’re hearing a lot of concern from voters about the state’s upcoming presidential primary.

That’s because in order to cast a ballot, you must check a box on the outside of the ballot return envelope, indicating whether you’re voting Democratic or Republican.

The choice of party is officially known as an “oath,” and is public for 60 days. The parties get the information, too.

Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson says party rules require voters to declare their affiliation for this election. And while she respects everyone’s right to have an opinion about that, she urges voters not to express that opinion by writing it on their voter envelope, or making any other changes.

This ballot envelope from the 2016 primary is an example used by the Washington Secretary of State's office to show how some people express their concerns about marking one party. This ballot is technically ready to process, but elections officials urge the public not to do anything but mark the box and sign their names.
Credit Washington Secretary of State's Office

“Don’t be cute on your envelope,” she said. “The place to express resistance is not by altering those oaths or marking more than one. Because that’s just going to cost a lot of your hard working tax dollars to correct. We’re required to reach back to you and have you redo it.”

Check one, and then “stay in your lane,” she says. “Pick the blue lane or the red lane, but don’t veer out of your lane.”

And as always, you must sign the return envelope in the space provided in order to have your ballot counted.

In this example from the Washington Secretary of State's office, the voter has altered the oath on the envelope. This will require election officials to get in touch with the voter and follow up before their ballot can be counted.
Credit Washington Secretary of State's Office

Here are some other examples of ballot envelopes that could cause problems for election officials. And this PDF explains how your ballot is processed.

After 60 days, your choice of party in this election is wiped out of your voter record. And it only applies to the March 10 presidential primary. In November’s general election, voters may choose any candidate.

Anderson says it’s also important to note that the individual candidate you choose remains confidential.