New Washington Residents
Welcome to Washington! As a new resident of Washington State, you can register to vote online, by mail, in-person, or when you get your new Washington state driver’s license or Washington ID at the Department of Licensing.
You may not vote in multiple states. Please cancel any previous voter registration. Call your old election office and ask about their process for canceling registration records as each state has its own rules. While we do share information with other states, that process can take time to be completed. Your election officials appreciate it when you take the time to cancel or update your voter registration when you move. This helps them keep their voter rolls up to date with the most accurate information.
Vote by Mail
Washington state is one of a handful of states that votes entirely by mail. Vote by Mail elections are an alternative to polling place voting. Prior to each election, a ballot is mailed to every eligible registered voter. For more in-depth information, visit the Secretary of State’s Vote by Mail FAQ page. You can also check out this infographic on the Vote by Mail process for a visual summary.
Party Affiliation and Top 2 Primary
In Washington state, we do a few things differently than other states in regard to voter registration and elections. Besides being a universal Vote by Mail state, two differences new voters often comment on are party affiliation and the Top 2 Primary system.
Washington voters do not declare a party affiliation when registering to vote. The sole exception to this is every four years when we conduct the Presidential Primary Election. In that particular election, voters are required by party rules, to indicate on their return ballot envelope a party affiliation in order to participate and vote. That information stays in the voter’s registration record for 60 days, after which it is removed. For more information, visit the Secretary of State’s Presidential Primary FAQ page
The Top 2 Primary system is new for many moving from other states. Almost all other states in the country conduct nominating Primary Elections, also known as closed primaries, such as the Presidential Primary Election described above. In those states, the purpose of the Primary is to select each political party’s nominee who will represent the party in the General Election.
In the Top 2 Primary, the purpose is to narrow the number of candidates down to two, regardless of a candidate’s party preference. For more information, visit the Secretary of State’s Top 2 Primary: FAQ for Voters page.
How to be an Informed Voter
Washington has many ways to help voters become informed about ballot measures and candidates:
- For General Elections held in November, the state General Election Voters’ Pamphlet is mailed to every household in Washington. If you need the General Election Voters’ Pamphlet in accessible formats or alternate languages, call (800) 448-4881 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- For personalized ballot measure and candidate information online, registered voters can sign into the online Voter Portal. Once signed into your registration record, go to the menu section entitled Voters’ Guide.
- For local races, you can also visit our What’s On the Ballot? page, which is updated before every election.