Support Offered for Voters in Washington Wildfire Counties
As crews battle the largest wildfires in Washington’s history, Secretary of State Kim Wyman is offering assistance to affected counties and voters as the state’s August 5 Primary Election voting period is underway.
Wyman reported Thursday that counties in the wildlife zones of north-central and northeastern Washington, particularly Okanogan and Ferry counties, are dealing admirably administering the Primary Election under adverse circumstances, including lack of electricity, spotty phone service and email access, and some ballots held at the post office.
All election offices remain open, including those in Ferry and Chelan counties. The Okanagan County post offices are holding ballots for voters who have lost their homes or who are in an area that can’t be reached due to the fires. Voters in those areas can pick up their ballot at their post office, download a ballot or contact their county auditor to get a replacement ballot.
Wyman and the state Elections Division offer continuing assistance to counties and to voters who may be having difficulty receiving or casting their ballots. Voters have until August 5 to have a postmark on their voted ballots or may use a county drop box until 8 p.m. that day.
“Our hearts go out to the people in the wildfire regions, and our gratitude goes out to the brave fire crews who have come from throughout the state and the region to fight the worst fires in our state history,” Wyman said. “We realize that these are difficult times and we want to make sure every eligible voter has the opportunity to vote in the Primary. Finalists are being picked for important local, legislative and congressional offices, and every voter’s voice is needed.”
Wyman and state Elections Director Lori Augino offered these suggestions:
- Voters in the affected area with access to a computer and printer who need a replacement ballot can log on to the user-friendly myvote.wa.gov. Follow the instructions to print, vote, sign, and return the ballot packet.
- A replacement ballot can be issued from any county auditor’s office. auditor’s offices were open as of Friday in Chelan, Douglas, Okanogan, Ferry, Lincoln and Grant counties.
- If you don’t have power or internet access at home, libraries may be a great place to use their publicly available computers.
- Ballots can be dropped off at any ballot drop box, even if it is outside of your home county. Election officials will route the ballot to the appropriate county to be counted. All three of Okanogan County’s drop boxes remain open.
- Or, you can drop the ballot off at any post office. Make sure it is postmarked by Election Day, August 5.
Wyman also noted that nearly 2,000 emergency response workers are on the front lines responding to the fires, most of whom have travelled from other areas, likely leaving their ballots behind. If they are registered Washington voters, they may use the alternatives mentioned for area residents.
Wyman’s staff reached out to the Department of Natural Resources and the Washington Military Department and its State Emergency Operations Center for help getting out the word to firefighters at their base camps.
Augino said the state Elections Division will report election results for the impacted counties on election night. Results will be posted after 8 p.m. at vote.wa.gov.
She said it remains to be seen how much the wildfires will impact turnout in the area. Currently the election officials in the impacted counties are receiving ballots from voters at a steady pace, she said.