Student Voting Guide | Washington
This student voting guide explains the laws for the state of Washington. If you wish to vote from your school address, check the student voting guide for the state in which you attend school. If you are interested in casting an absentee ballot in your home state, check the student voting guide for that state.
The Brennan Center is committed to giving students as much information as possible to help you exercise your constitutional right to vote. More than ever in recent history, changes to voting laws are being implemented in ways that can affect your ability to make your vote count. In addition to the content you will find in this Student Voting Guide, a report that we issued last year documents a number of these changes and we continue to track passed and pending voting law changes here. While we are working to give you up-to-date information, we urge you to be proactive! In order to ensure you have all the information you need before casting your vote, you should also check with your state and local election officials for information about additional requirements or regulations.
This voting guide was last updated in June 2012.
To register to vote in Washington you must be 18 or over by the next election and a citizen of the United States. In Washington, you can register to vote online, in person, or by mail – but each method has different rules and deadlines.
You may register to vote online if you have a Washington driver’s license or state identification card. If you are registering online or by mail (you can print the mail-in form here – pdf), your registration application must be postmarked or delivered to your county elections office 29 days before Election Day. For the 2012 General Election the online registration deadline is October 8, 2012. Mail applications must be postmarked by October 6, 2012 to avoid missing this deadline. 
You can also register in person at your county elections office up to eight days before Election Day. The last day to register in person for the 2012 general election is October 29, 2012. If you are already registered in Washington and are moving within the state, you must update your registration by the 29th day before the election, otherwise your ballot will be sent to your previous registration address.
If you have been convicted of a felony, it may impact your ability to vote. If you have questions about whether a criminal conviction impacts your right to vote, you can contact your local election officials or call the Washington State Department of Corrections at (800) 430-9674.
Under Washington law, voting residency is determined by your permanent address—the place where you physically live and where you maintain your home. You must have lived at this address for the 30 days immediately preceding an election in order to vote in that election. Voting residency is not gained or lost in Washington solely as a result of attendance at school. It is your intent to remain at a particular address that controls your address for voter residency.
At School. Students can establish residency in Washington if they have a present intention to remain at their Washington school address for the time being, and they intend to make it their principal home. Any other interpretation of the residency law is unconstitutional. Students attending school in Washington can register and vote at their school address even if they are not clear on their post-school plans. If you live on campus and provide a campus address as your residential address, be sure to list your dormitory and room number; a PO Box is not a residential address. However, a P.O. Box can be used as a mailing address—for example, the address to which a mail-in-ballot will be delivered. For more information refer to Elections & Voting: College Students on the Secretary of State’s website.
Voting in Washington may be a declaration of residency, potentially making you subject to other laws that govern state residents. For example, registering to vote in Washington makes you a resident for the purposes of the driver’s license law, and if you drive a car in the state, you have thirty days from when you register to vote to get a Washington driver’s license.
At Home. Students who lived in Washington before moving elsewhere to attend school, and who wish to establish or keep their Washington voting residency (i.e., their parents’ Washington address), should have no problem doing so unless they register to vote in another state. Like most states, Washington allows students to keep their voting residency even if they move out of the district to attend school, and the only way you will lose this residency is by establishing residency in a new state. While registering to vote in another state is not automatically considered an abandonment of residency in Washington, some judges or officials might view it as such. If you have established residency in another state and are moving back to Washington with the intent to reside here, you will have to follow the normal registration procedures to re-register in Washington.
Challenges to Residency. Students have the right to register to vote in Washington regardless of student status or whether they pay in-state or out-of-state tuition. Washington presumes that you are qualified to vote if you are registered to vote. Your eligibility can only be challenged by a signed affidavit filed by another registered voter or by the county prosecuting attorney. In order to legally challenge your eligibility, the challenger must provide substantial evidence to show that you do not live at the address where you claimed to live—not just that your are attending school at that address.
If your eligibility to vote is challenged, you are entitled to notice and a hearing to determine your eligibility. The hearing will be before the county auditor, unless it is filed within 45 days of an election, in which case it will be before the county canvassing board. You may seek judicial review, of the county auditor or canvassing board’s decision, by the superior court. Any challenge made solely on the basis of your student or tuition status is invalid.
For your voter registration to be accepted you must give proof of your identity. You can prove your identity by providing your driver’s license number, state identification card number, or the last four digits of your social security number on your registration form. If you did not provide any of these numbers on your registration form, you will be provisionally registered to vote and must provide ID (see below paragraph for details) in order for your vote to be counted, but you have until after the election to provide this information.
If you do not have a driver’s license number, state identification card number, or social security number, you may provide your county elections office with; a valid photo ID, a valid tribal enrollment card, a copy of a utility bill, a current bank statement, a copy of a government check, a copy of a current paycheck, or any other government document that shows your name and address. For your ballot to be counted you must provide your county elections office with one of these types of identification no later than the day before the certification of the election. Certification occurs fourteen days after a primary or special election and twenty-one days after a general election.
All Washington voters vote by mail. Your ballot will be mailed to the mailing address listed on your registration form no later than 18 days before Election Day. If your ballot has been destroyed, spoiled, lost, or not received you may obtain a replacement ballot. Requests for a replacement ballot can be made by phone, fax, or email, or in person with your county election official. If you return your completed ballot in person, your completed ballot must be returned to your county election office no later than 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. If you mail in your ballot, it must be postmarked by Election Day. Ballot drop-boxes will also be located at your county’s voting center for submitting completed ballots.
You may also vote at a voting center, a special location set up by your county elections office, providing handicap accessible in-person voting, ballots, ballot drop-boxes, and information on how to vote. Voting centers will be open starting 18 days before Election Day and will close at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. If you vote in person you must sign a ballot declaration or provide valid photo identification. Valid photo identification includes; a driver's license, state identification card, student identification card, tribal identification card, or employer identification card. If you vote in person at your county’s voting center your ballot will only be counted if you have not also voted by a regular mail-in ballot for the same election. Contact your county auditor for voting center locations.
Last Updated in June 2012
 Wash. Const. art. VI, §1 (2012); Wash. Rev. Code. Ann. §29A.08.210(9) (2012).
 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §29A.08.140(1)(a) (2012); Washington State Voter Registration Form, available at http://wei.secstate.wa.gov/osos/en/PreviousElections/Documents/VRF_web.pdf.
 Wash. Secretary of State, Elections and Voting: Dates and Deadlines, http://wei.secstate.wa.gov/osos/en/voters/Pages/dates_and_deadlines.aspx (last visited June 27, 2012).
 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §29A.08.140(1)(b) (2012).
 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §29A.08.140(2) (2012).
 Wash. Const. art. VI, §3 (2012).
 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 29A.04.151 (2012).
 Wash. Const. art. VI, §1 (2012).
 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §29A.04.151(3) (2012).
 Op. Wash. Att’y Gen. No. 10 (1971).
 See Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 330 (1972); Williams v. Salerno, 792 F.2d 323, 328 (2d Cir. 1986).
 http://wei.secstate.wa.gov/osos/en/voters/Pages/college_voters.aspx (last visited Mar. 29, 2012).
 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 46.20.021 (2012).
 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 29A.08.810(1) (2012).
 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 29A.08.810(2) (2012).
 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 29A.08.810(3) (2012); see also Wash. Secretary of St., Challenge to Voter Registration (2010) available at http://www.sos.wa.gov/_assets/elections/Challenge_instructions_and_form.pdf.
 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 29A.08.820 (2012).
 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 29A.08.820 (2012).
 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 29A.08.840(6) (2012).
 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §29A.08.107(1) (2012).
 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §29A.08.107(2), (3) (2012)
 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §29A.08.107(2) (2012).
 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §29A.08.107(3) (2012).
 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §29A.60.190 (2012).
 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §29A.40.010 (2012).
 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §29A.40.070(1) (2012).
 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §29A.40.070(2) (2012).
 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §29A.40.070(2) (2012).
 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §29A.40.091 (2012).
 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §29A.40.160(2) (2012).
 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §29A.40.160(1)-(2) (2012).
 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §29A.40.160(1) (2012).
 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §29A.40.160(7) (2012).
 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §29A.40.160(7)(b) (2012).
 Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §29A.40.160(12) (2012).