(1) The opening and subsequent processing of return envelopes for any primary or election may begin upon receipt. The tabulation of absentee ballots must not commence until after 8:00 p.m. on the day of the primary or election.
(2) All received return envelopes must be placed in secure locations from the time of delivery to the county auditor until their subsequent opening. After opening the return envelopes, the county canvassing board shall place all of the ballots in secure storage until processing. Ballots may be taken from the inner envelopes and all the normal procedural steps may be performed to prepare these ballots for tabulation.
(3) The canvassing board, or its designated representatives, shall examine the postmark on the return envelope and signature on the declaration before processing the ballot. The ballot must either be received no later than 8:00 p.m. on the day of the primary or election, or must be postmarked no later than the day of the primary or election. All personnel assigned to verify signatures must receive training on statewide standards for signature verification. Personnel shall verify that the voter's signature on the ballot declaration is the same as the signature of that voter in the registration files of the county. Verification may be conducted by an automated verification system approved by the secretary of state. A variation between the signature of the voter on the ballot declaration and the signature of that voter in the registration files due to the substitution of initials or the use of common nicknames is permitted so long as the surname and handwriting are clearly the same.
(4) If the postmark is missing or illegible, the date on the ballot declaration to which the voter has attested determines the validity, as to the time of voting, for that ballot. For overseas voters and service voters, the date on the declaration to which the voter has attested determines the validity, as to the time of voting, for that ballot. Any overseas voter or service voter may return the signed declaration and voted ballot by fax or email by 8:00 p.m. on the day of the primary or election, and the county auditor must use established procedures to maintain the secrecy of the ballot.
This section was amended by 2011 c 10 § 41, 2011 c 348 § 4, and by 2011 c 349 § 18, each without reference to the other. All amendments are incorporated in the publication of this section under RCW 1.12.025
(2). For rule of construction, see RCW 1.12.025
Effective date—2011 c 349:
See note following RCW 29A.04.255
Notice to registered poll voters—Elections by mail—2011 c 10:
See note following RCW 29A.04.008
Effective date—1991 c 81:
See note following RCW 29A.84.540
Legislative intent—Effective date—1987 c 346:
See notes following RCW 29A.40.010
Effective date—Severability—1977 ex.s. c 361:
See notes following RCW 29A.16.040
County canvassing board, meeting to process ballots, canvass returns: RCW 29A.60.160