Column: Institutional voting knowledge won’t ever be lost

Remember when we used to have to figure out which voting precinct we lived in, and where we had to go to vote? How confusing it was when you moved somewhere new, and how you hoped that, when you got there, you had everything you needed to actually vote?

I do, and weirdly, I miss those days.

It’s probably because I’ve always lived in small towns and always had a bit of a safety net. The first time I got out the vote after college, I was in a completely new town, in my first real job. I’d been there about a month and didn’t even know where to go to vote and was almost too embarrassed to ask. But I did and (thank you, small towns) it was just next door at the Hallock City Hall.

I walked in, to the same gym that a week or two earlier had been the site of a church garage sale, and again, was lost. I didn’t have my voter registration card, or any other paperwork, and worse, I didn’t recognize the one person in the room who I needed to vouch for me, my new landlord’s wife.

She spotted me, though, and must have recognized that lost look. Without even putting down the bunting she’d been hanging, she took charge of me, directing me to the right precinct table and then vouching for me as a resident — a truly embarrassed resident who shortly discovered that I couldn’t even vote in the primary because I hadn’t declared a party.

So I didn’t actually vote that day, but I got sorted on where to update my registration, how to find my polling place and all of that other stuff that people — other people — just seem to know in their bones.

We don’t need to know much of that any more, with our mail-in ballots, but I’m still glad to know that someone, somewhere, is a repository of that information.

In honor of those people, here is my collected wisdom on voting and a slew of other information from the King County Elections website:

The simplest, and most trusting, way to vote is to put a first-class postage stamp on your ballot envelope, sign the outside, fold your marked ballot inside the little paper sleeve, and stuff the whole works into the outside envelope. Seal it and drop it into a mailbox, ideally by end of day Nov. 6, unless you know when your last mail pickup is.

My preferred way to vote is to do all of the above, but skip the stamp and hand-deliver my ballot to one of those big, friendly county ballot boxes. They’re out now, and will be out until 8 p.m. election day.

The closest ones for Valley people are outside the Fall City Library and outside the Snoqualmie Library.

You can also find them at the libraries in Auburn, Bellevue, Covington, Enumclaw, Kingsgate in Kirkland, Algona-Pacific in Pacific, Fairwood in Renton, Valley View Library in Sea-Tac, Ballard, Beacon Hill, Woodinville, Vashon, Shoreline, Boulevard Park, Broadview, High Point, Lake City, South Park, Skyway, and probably a few others.

You can also return ballots at these area non-library locations:

• Issaquah City Hall, 130 E Sunset Way Issaquah;

• Crossroads Shopping Center (south entrance) 15600 NE 8th Street, Bellevue;

• Bothell City Hall, 18415 101st Avenue NE, Bothell;

• Redmond City Hall, 15670 NE 85th Street Redmond;

• King County Elections headquarters, 919 SW Grady Way, Renton;

• Sammamish City Hall, 801 228th Avenue SE, Sammamish.

And, from personal experience getting stranded on the other side of the river from my ballot on election day a few years back, I know that you can also fax or email your ballots in, too. It’s an emergency-only situation, though, and you are still required to mail your official ballot in within the next couple of weeks. You know where to send it right?

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