SECRETARY OF STATE
[Filed August 10, 2018, 2:25 p.m., effective August 10, 2018, 2:25 p.m.]
Effective Date of Rule: Immediately upon filing.
Purpose: Changing the ballot return process for nonservice and nonoverseas voters to require return of ballots using the mail or a ballot drop box. Reducing email and fax ballot return to only service and overseas voters.
Citation of Rules Affected by this Order: Amending WAC 434-208-060 and 434-250-120.
Under RCW 34.05.350
the agency for good cause finds that immediate adoption, amendment, or repeal of a rule is necessary for the preservation of the public health, safety, or general welfare, and that observing the time requirements of notice and opportunity to comment upon adoption of a permanent rule would be contrary to the public interest.
Reasons for this Finding: The office of the secretary of state has been alerted to evidence of illegal attempts to gain access to and interfere with electronic systems that Washington elections officials use during an election. None of these attempts was successful, but election security experts have recently advised Washington elections officials to take steps to reduce opportunities for bad actors to attempt to interfere with Washington elections through electronic means. These amendments maintain the ability of service and overseas voters to submit ballots by fax or email as required by federal and state statutes, while eliminating email and fax submission of other ballots in order to limit vulnerability and reduce the risk of election tampering. Accurate and fair elections are central to the general welfare of Washington's citizens.
Number of Sections Adopted in Order to Comply with Federal Statute: New 0, Amended 2, Repealed 0; Federal Rules or Standards: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0; or Recently Enacted State Statutes: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0.
Number of Sections Adopted at the Request of a Nongovernmental Entity: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0.
Number of Sections Adopted on the Agency's own Initiative: New 0, Amended 2, Repealed 0.
Number of Sections Adopted in Order to Clarify, Streamline, or Reform Agency Procedures: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0.
Number of Sections Adopted using Negotiated Rule Making: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0; Pilot Rule Making: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0; or Other Alternative Rule Making: New 0, Amended 0, Repealed 0.
Date Adopted: August 10, 2018.
Assistant Secretary of State
AMENDATORY SECTION(Amending WSR 14-06-040, filed 2/26/14, effective 3/29/14)
WAC 434-208-060Electronic filings.
(1) In addition to those documents specified by RCW 29A.04.255
, the secretary of state or the county auditor shall accept and file in his or her office electronic transmissions of the following documents:
(a) The text of any proposed initiative, referendum, or recall measure and any accompanying documents required by law;
(b) Any minor party or independent candidate filing material for president and vice president, except nominating petitions;
(c) Lists of presidential electors selected by political parties or independent candidates;
(d) Voted ballots and signed ballot declarations from service and overseas voters received no later than 8:00 p.m. on election day((. Voted ballots and signed ballot declarations from voters who are neither service nor overseas voters received no later than 8:00 p.m. on election day, as long as hard copies of the ballot and ballot declaration are received no later than the day before certification of the election));
(e) Resolutions from cities, towns, and other districts calling for a special election;
(f) Voter registration forms, unless the form is illegible or the signature image is poor quality requiring the county auditor to reject the form;
(g) Signed ballot declarations, and any accompanying materials, submitted pursuant to RCW 29A.60.165
and WAC 434-261-050; and
(h) Requests to withdraw.
(2) If payment of a fee is required, the electronic filing is not complete until the fee is received.
(3) No initiative, referendum, recall, or other signature petitions may be filed electronically.
(4) County auditors must use best practices provided by the secretary of state for securely handling documents received by fax and email.
AMENDATORY SECTION(Amending WSR 18-10-003, filed 4/19/18, effective 5/20/18)
WAC 434-250-120Verification of the signature and return date.
(1) A mail ballot shall be counted if:
(a) The ballot declaration is signed with a valid signature. A valid signature may be the voter's name or a distinctive mark or symbol signed by the voter.
(i) If the voter is unable to sign his or her name, the voter may make a mark or symbol with two witnesses' signatures. A signature stamp accompanied by two witness signatures is an acceptable mark.
(ii) A power of attorney cannot be used as a signature for a voter;
(b) The signature has been verified pursuant to WAC 434-379-020; and
(c)(i) The envelope is postmarked not later than the day of the election and received not later than the day before certification of the election. A postmark is any official mark, imprint, or application that verifies when a ballot entered the U.S. postal system. The postmark on the envelope is the official date of mailing. If there are two postmarks, the earlier postmark is the date of mailing. A hand cancellation by an agent of the U.S. Postal Service is a postmark.
If the postmark is illegible or missing, the date of the voter's signature is the date of mailing as per RCW 29A.40.110
. If the postmark is illegible or missing and the voter did not include a date with their signature, county auditors may use available U.S. Postal Service tools to verify the date of mailing;
(ii) The ballot is deposited in a ballot drop box no later than 8:00 p.m. on election day; or
(iii) For service and overseas voters, the ballot is received by fax or email no later than 8:00 p.m. on election day. ((If the ballot is from a voter who is neither a service nor overseas voter, a hard copy of the ballot and ballot declaration must also be received no later than the day before certification of the election.))Only service and overseas voters can submit ballots by fax or email.
(2) Postage that includes a date, such as meter postage or a dated stamp, does not qualify as a postmark. If an envelope lacks a postmark or if the postmark is unreadable, the date to which the voter has attested on the ballot declaration determines the validity of the ballot, per RCW 29A.40.110
. If a ballot is from a service or overseas voter, the date to which the voter has attested on the ballot declaration determines the validity of the ballot, per RCW 29A.40.100
(3) The signature on the ballot declaration must be compared with the signature in the voter's voter registration file using the standards established in WAC 434-379-020. The signature on a ballot declaration may not be rejected merely because the signature is not dated, unless the date is necessary to validate the timeliness of the ballot. The signature on a ballot declaration may not be rejected merely because the name in the signature is a variation of the name on the voter registration record. The canvassing board may designate in writing representatives to perform this function. All personnel assigned to the duty of signature verification shall subscribe to an oath administered by the county auditor regarding the discharge of his or her duties. Personnel shall be instructed in the signature verification process prior to actually canvassing any signatures. Local law enforcement officials may instruct those employees in techniques used to identify forgeries.
(4)(((a))) For service and overseas ballots returned by fax or email, the county auditor must apply procedures to protect the secrecy of the ballot. If returned by email, the county auditor must print the email and attachments; the printed email and signed declaration page must be processed and retained like other ballot declarations, and the printed ballot must be processed and retained like other ballots. The electronic versions of the email, ballot declaration, and ballot are exempt from public disclosure in order to maintain secrecy of the ballot. Voted service and overseas ballots returned by email may be returned with multiple attachments or ((as))in multiple emails.
(((b) If the ballot is from a voter who is neither a service nor overseas voter, the voter must also return a hard copy of the ballot and ballot declaration no later than the day before certification.
(i) Consistent with WAC 434-250-080, the first valid ballot and declaration received is counted; subsequently received versions are not counted.
(ii) In order to maintain secrecy of the ballot, the hard copy ballot may not be compared to the ballot received electronically.
(iii) Voted ballots returned electronically no later than 8:00 p.m. on election day are timely even if the hard copy subsequently returned contains a postmark after election day.
))(a) Service and overseas b
allots returned ((electronically
))by fax or email
with a missing or mismatched signature are processed as established in RCW 29A.60.165
and WAC 434-261-050.
(b) Only service and overseas voters are eligible to return a ballot electronically. For electronic ballots received from voters who are not service or overseas voters the county auditor must:
(i) Contact the voter immediately if a fax or email ballot is received to notify the voter that they must return their ballot by mail or ballot drop box.
(ii) Count only the ballot received by mail or ballot drop box if the voter returns both an electronic ballot and a ballot by mail or ballot drop box.
(iii) Send the electronic ballot to the canvassing board for rejection if the voter did not return a ballot by mail or ballot drop box.
(5) The signature verification process shall be open to the public, subject to reasonable procedures adopted and promulgated by the canvassing board to ensure that order is maintained and to safeguard the integrity of the process.