Nonprofits in Washington have a critical role — and right — ensuring that every vote counts in the upcoming election.
Many 501(c)(3) nonprofits mistakenly believe they can’t get involved in elections at all. In fact, nonprofits can and should encourage people to register and vote. Just remember that a nonprofit can’t tell people who to vote for — 501(c)(3) organizations are barred from endorsing candidates.
Voting by mail is nothing new for Washington residents. Washington made the official switch to a vote-by-mail system in 2011, and before then, Washington was conducting elections by having voters submit ballots by post in counties across the state.
The most important thing your nonprofit can do: Help people get registered!
Washington residents can register online with a current Washington State driver’s license or ID card at VoteWa.gov. If a resident does not have a driver’s license or ID, they can still register to vote by printing out a voter registration form and mailing it to their county elections office. (The form is available in more than 20 languages!)
Mailing a voter registration form requires a stamp. Can a registered nonprofit provide stamps? Yes! Due to their relatively low value, it is fine for registered nonprofits to give stamps to community members needing one to mail their form. (Note: Ballots have pre-paid postage.)
Washington State mails ballots to registered voters at least 18 days before each election. Each packet includes a ballot, a secrecy envelope or secrecy sleeve for the ballot, and a return envelope.
Nonprofits should encourage community members to complete their ballot before election day and return it to a drop box. But don’t stop there! Advise people to check the status of their ballot by logging-in and clicking on “Ballot Status” at VoteWA. If a ballot is lost, destroyed, or filled out incorrectly, a replacement ballot can be requested through VoteWa.gov.
September 22 is National Voter Registration Day, but nonprofits in Washington should be engaged in registering and educating voters now. Join Nonprofit VOTE’s “Nonprofits Countdown to the Election” for templates and tools to start your work today.
For more frequently asked questions and answers about voting by mail in Washington visit: https://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/faq_vote_by_mail.aspx