Voting 101: Student voting hub, registration, ballot counting explained

Student Engagement Voting Hub comes to the Compton Union Building on Monday, Tuesday



Patty Murray is the projected winner for Washington state senator as of Sunday.

JOSIAH PIKE, Evergreen news co-editor

As Election Day approaches, voting becomes essential for students to make their voices heard and create change at the local level. WSU and Whitman County are trying to make voting and registration more accessible for students leading up to Tuesday. 

“The youth vote cannot be taken for granted. Issues that are important to young people will have to be addressed more and more by politicians as they become a regular voting block,” said Dave Jones, student engagement coordinator for the Center for Civic Engagement.

Whitman County auditor Sandy Jamison said she requests people do not wait to vote until Election Day and vote as soon as they are able, so the auditor’s office can process it sooner. Students can find candidate information on VoteWA’s website or through the voters’ pamphlet sent in the mail. 

“That is our number one goal of setting up the student voting centers, it’s easier access,” she said. “I have my own staff up there [at the Compton Union Building], if there’s any questions about the process you have pamphlets up there.”

Students at WSU will be able to vote on campus at the Student Engagement Voting Hub from Monday and Tuesday in the Compton Union Building senior ballroom, Jones said. Jones helps oversee the voting hub’s operations.

On Monday, the hub will be open from 10 a.m.- 8 p.m. and again on Tuesday from 8 a.m.-8 p.m., he said. 

Jones said the two ballot boxes at WSU are in centralized areas so they would be easier for students to find. One is at the west entrance to the CUB, and the other is by the entrance of the Chinook Student Center. Students can find ballot box locations in Whitman County on the county’s website

Most questions students might have about voting can be answered at the voting hub, Jones said. During the 2020 election cycle, there were about 500-600 people who attended, and he expects about the same high turnout this year. He also encourages students to help volunteer if they would like.

“One thing I think is that there’s a misconception about is that students need to know everything to vote,” Jones said. “But people, A, don’t need to know everything to vote, and B, there’s a lot of information available online for people to find more information.”

In order for students to register to vote in Whitman County, they have to confirm they have lived in the county for at least 30 days, Jamison said. For out-of-state students, they must cancel their previous voter registration before registering in Washington, according to the Whitman County website

Students can register to vote through 8 p.m. on Election Day, Jamison said. 

She said Washington is a 100% vote-by-mail state, so students who are from other states where voting booths are a more common sight cannot vote that way in Whitman County.

“If you come in to register [at the election office in Colfax], and it’s really too late to get one mailed to you, then we will hand you a ballot,” Jamison said. “You can sit right there and vote it, sign it, seal it and drop it right there.”

Within Washington state, the voting system is consistent from county to county, she said. 

“We worked really hard to make this voting system statewide so other than the size of a county and you may have to stand in line longer the system itself should be identical,” she said.

Jamison said you can drop your ballot in any ballot box in Washington, and it will be counted for the county you are registered in, as long as it is postmarked by Nov. 8. 

The auditor’s office will certify the election, which means they confirm that all the ballots are in and counted for, on Nov. 29. Jamison said it usually takes about two weeks for all the ballots to be counted, and it is not the auditor’s job to call races.

“A race should never be called on election night because all the ballots are not counted,” Jamison said. “The result we put out on election night often only accounts for 30 or 40% of the vote, if that much.”

Jamison said it is important for people to keep in mind that the tabulator used by the county to count ballots is not connected to the internet in any way, so it can not be hacked into, making voter fraud unlikely.

Jamison said it is a common misconception that as soon as you place your ballot in the drop box voters can check their ballot’s status online, which is not true. She said it is important for people to wait for a few days for the auditor’s office to process the ballots.

Jones said he encourages students to register as soon as possible for next year’s election.