Why Washington only accepts ballots by mail

Washington became the second of just three states to get rid of all its polling places and adopt a statewide vote-by-mail system five years ago. Oregon decided to close its polls way back in 1998, and Colorado went postal-only in 2013. The biggest reasons? Convenience, cost, and participation – no one likes to stand in long lines on a weekday.

We get ballots in the mail at least 18 days before an election, giving us more of an “Election Half-Month” than an “Election Day.” And it costs local governments less money to process ballots returned by mail or drop box than it does to staff polling places.

Pierce County, to our south, was the only Washington county that preferred the in-person polling system and complained when the state moved to mail-only voting in 2011. But even those officials appreciated the $80,000 they would save the following year.

Still, there’s something to be said for the now lost tradition of physically showing up to vote. Maybe along with a ballot, they can mail us that “I Voted” sticker? Thanks to reader Marina Martin for asking us this question Friday.