I live in King County in Washington state, where my son (who is temporarily away at college in another state) is registered to vote in the 2020 election. My address is his permanent residence. Despite my prompting earlier this year for him to update his mailing address, he failed to do so, so I now have his ballot.
I have seen differing accounts online regarding the legality of the USPS forwarding mail. Many news reports specifically say that the USPS won't forward election-related mail, but I cannot find an official citation of the relevant law.
Further, Washington has long had 100% vote-by-mail, where ballots are sent to all registered voters, so it's not like a typical absentee ballot request in other states. The Washington Secretary of State website FAQ indicates forwarding mail is a county-level decision:
Some counties may allow ballots to be forwarded. However, the best thing to do is contact your county elections department and ask for a temporary change in your mailing address.
I looked up WAC 434-250-070 which confuses me as it seems to provide for mail to be forwarded, with the voter placed inactive after the election:
- (1) The county auditor must utilize postal service endorsements that allow ballots to be forwarded, allow the county auditor to receive the updated address information for forwarded ballots, and allow the return of ballots not capable of being forwarded. A voter may only vote a ballot specific to the address where he or she is currently registered to vote, rather than a ballot specific to a new address.
- (2) If a ballot is returned or forwarded, the county auditor must, following certification of the election, either:
- (a) Transfer the voter registration and send the voter an acknowledgment notice, if the updated address is within the county; or
- (b) Place the voter on inactive status and send the voter a confirmation notice to all known addresses, if no updated address information was received or the updated address is outside the county.
Since this will be my son's first presidential election it's important for me to give him this opportunity to vote. I can obviously enclose his ballot in another envelope, pay the correct postage, and forward it myself, but if it's illegal for the USPS to forward it, I'm concerned whether I could do so either. I would prefer to simply change the address on the envelope I've received -- if I can be certain it will actually be forwarded.