Ballot Do’s and Don’ts

From the Family Policy Institute of Washington:

We would like to thank Sharon Hanek from Research Mom, for passing this important information along to us about the Do’s and Don’ts filling out your ballot.

There are many concerns on filling out the ballots to be sure that your vote is counted correctly.  The following suggestions are based upon the knowledge of official observers that are watching your ballot once it enters the Election Dept.

If you make a mistake you can go to the election center and get a new ballot.  Any changes, white-outs, explanations will result in a re-made ballot.  If you must make corrections, be clear as to your voter intent so the duplicator can easily tell how to re-make your ballot.

Try to avoid any errors that will force a re-made ballot.  There can be human error in any process of re-making the ballot.  If the voter intent is not clear, your ballot may not be counted at all.

  • Use the proper pencil / pen color requested on the form.  Some folks might be concerned about using pencil, but the graphite in the pencil is easily picked up by many of the machines.
  • Correctly extend your lines or fill out your circles
  • Be sure your signature matches the way you signed your original voter registration card. Your full name and shape of the letters should match (eg. Use the same cursive or print letters)  If you are not sure how your signature looks, then fill out a new voter registration form for next time.
  • Be sure your signature matches the name on the envelope.  Some family members may grab the wrong envelope to sign.
  • Add your phone number and return address so you can be quickly reached for any questions on your signature.
  • Use the internet or call your election department to check if your ballot has been accepted.  There is usually a process to track down if your ballot has been received or rejected.  The election dept has a process to give you a second chance to fix errors in signatures verification but not errors in the ballot.  Be prompt in responding to any letters from your election auditor.
  • Feel free to visit the election office to watch the process.  Many centers have windowed areas where you can observe.  Many Counties will allow only official trained observers to be in the election center itself.   All official observers must be under the responsibility of the Democrat or Republican Party.  If your County does not have any “official observers” please go to your party and volunteer.   Some counties will still allow training but others may not.  Be sure to get on the list for future elections.


  • Use red or green ink.  Many colors other than black/blue will not be read by the machine.
  • Use dark markers that could bleed through the other side.  This could result in marks showing on the backside of the ballot that will force a re-made ballot.
  • Use thick pencils, which could result in smudge marks that will force a re-made ballot.
  • Add any additional lines to your ballot.  Any extraneous marks on the ballot, including any markings on other candidate names WILL result in a re-made ballot.  The machine will throw out any ballot with extra dots, lines, words, etc.  If you consistently mark your vote AND draw lines through another candidate it could result in your ballot not counting at all because the voter intent is not clear.
  • Write-in names unless you are clear about that choice.  ALL write-in ballots are pulled out and processed after inspection.

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