Election Q&A: Can you change your vote in Clark County?

Despite slowing to end the week, voter turnout is still expected to reach 90 percent when all is said and done

CLARK COUNTY — With the Nov. 3 general election coming up next Tuesday, voter turnout topped 61 percent on Friday in Clark County.

We’ll get to answering some of the questions people have had about the election in a bit, but first some numbers.

An official ballot envelope for the 2020 general election. Photo by Chris Brown
An official ballot envelope for the 2020 general election. Photo by Chris Brown

As of Friday morning, a total of 199,560 ballots have been returned, good for 61.61 percent turnout.

Thursday saw 12,064 more ballots returned, the lowest daily total since Oct. 16. Still, if the county’s predictions hold true, total voter turnout would hit right at 90 percent, easily topping the 77.25 percent turnout in 2016, and even the 85.31 percent voter turnout in 2008.

Making that number even more impressive is the fact that there are a lot more registered voters in Clark County now than there were in 2008. 

There have been almost 90,000 new voter registrations in the county since then, including 51,000 more just since the 2018 midterm elections, and nearly 35,000 added this year alone.

“We only have 500,000 people in the whole county,” said Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey on Friday, “but 324,000 of them are registered.”

Despite all of that, the Washington Secretary of State’s office estimates half a million people in the state are eligible to vote but haven’t registered. If that held true in Clark County, which is home to around 7 percent of the state’s population, it would mean there are still 39,000 people who could vote, but have chosen not to do so.

Can you change your vote?

With an historic number of people choosing to vote early this election season, it’s only natural that “can I change my vote” would be a trending search topic on Google.

In Washington state, says Kimsey, the short answer is “no.”

“Once we received your ballot, we do not allow any modifications to that ballot,” Kimsey added. “Our entire process is completely focused on ensuring there are no changes to ballots.”

Of course if your ballot had been lost or rejected for some reason, you could request a replacement, but once the ballot is received and accepted, you’re locked in.

What if my ballot is challenged?

So far, around 1 percent of the ballots received by Clark County Elections have been “challenged,” meaning they couldn’t be processed. In most cases that is due to someone failing to sign their ballot, or the signature didn’t match up with what’s on file with the state.

You can view the status of your ballot by heading to voter.VoteWA.gov, then entering your information, and clicking on “ballot status.”

This official ballot drop box is one of 23 around Clark County this election season. Photo by Mike Schultz
This official ballot drop box is one of 23 around Clark County this election season. Photo by Mike Schultz

If the status says your vote hasn’t been counted yet don’t panic, says Kimsey.

“They’ll receive a letter from us, with information on what’s occurred and what they need to do to try to cure the issues. I think people don’t understand they have until the day before we certify the election to cure those signature issues.”

This year, certification day is Nov. 24, meaning you have until Nov. 23 to fix the problem and make sure your votes are counted. Kimsey said they would prefer people wait a few days after checking the status of their ballot before contacting them.

“It’s great that people can go online and see the status of their ballot,” he says. “We always think more information is better. But we also encourage folks to wait a day or two until we get that letter to them.”

Kimsey says they have gotten a “fair number” of calls from people who checked their ballot status at the website votewashington.info. The page, which is independent of the state, had data that was usually a day behind, and also labeled challenged ballots as “rejected.”

“No ballot that has been returned for the 2020 General Election has been rejected,” wrote Secretary of State Kim Wyman in a news release this week. “The term ‘rejected’ is a system code that signals to county election officials the ballot cannot be tabulated until the issue has been resolved.”

Wyman noted that her office was working with the developers of the site — who assured her their purpose was merely informational and not nefarious — to help make sure ballot statuses are accurately reflected.

“VoteWA.gov is the official statewide source for Washington voters to check their most up-to-date ballot status,” added Wyman. “These next five days, and even after the election, I urge voters to rely on trusted sources for their elections and voting information.”

Where are voters turning out?

The Clark County Elections Department shares information on which drop boxes are receiving the most ballots. It’s more difficult to determine which areas mailed in ballots are being sent from.

As of Friday morning, the totals for drop box returns looked like this:

• Downtown Vancouver (W 14th Street): 25,140

• Fisher’s Landing C-TRAN Station: 14,605

• Battle Ground City Hall: 12,670

• Vancouver Mall C-TRAN Station: 11,808

• Camas Post Office: 11,170

• Hazel Dell C-TRAN Station: 10,615

• Cascade Park Post Office: 4,318

• Shahala Middle School: 4,204

• Ridgefield – Pioneer Exit: 3,719

• Elections Office Lobby: 3,449

• WSU – Vancouver Campus: 3,436

• Jefferson Middle School: 3,192

• Washougal Library: 3,090

• Pioneer/Frontier Schools: 2,805

• Brush Prairie Post Office: 2,183

• Hockinson Community Center: 2,167

• Clark College: 2,071

• La Center: 2,009

• Ridgefield Schools Administration Building: 1,578

• Yacolt Primary School: 769

• Amboy Middle School: 450

• Camas Heights Learning Center: 334

Overall, 65.47 percent of ballots have been returned through drop boxes during this election, including 84 percent on Friday. That’s well ahead of the 25 percent pace from the 2016 presidential election, when there were only five drop boxes around the county.