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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

How Ballot Counting Works In Washington State

Washington Secretary of State's Office

The campaigns are winding down and the ballot counting is about to begin. But in Washington state, we may not know the results of close races until later this week.

Like Oregon, Washington is an all vote-by-mail state. But in Washington, unlike Oregon, ballots don’t have to be in on Election Day. They just have to be postmarked. That means valid ballots continue to arrive in the days after the election.

Also, Washington’s 39 counties will only report one set of returns on election night. The ballots that make it into that first count are the ones that arrived early enough that election workers could verify the voter’s signature and prep the ballot for the counting machine. The general rule of thumb in Washington is election night results capture about 50 to 60 percent of the ballots that will ultimately be tallied.

Officials with Washington’s Secretary of State’s office say early ballot returns suggest a lower-than-expected turnout for this mid-term election.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."