Washington state Republican Chair Jim Walsh has called having voters write their party affiliation on the outside of their mail-in ballot a “questionable design decision” as some Washingtonians have raised concerns. 

Walsh told Fox News Digital on Friday the requirement to declare one’s party is “codified in law” and is only for the primary, not the general election. 

“The design where the attestation, the declaration is on the outer part of the envelope, that is not state law, that is a guideline, an administrative decision made by the Washington Secretary of State in conjunction with local county level election officials,” he said. 

Walsh added, “That is not statutory, that’s just a questionable design decision by the Secretary of State working in conjunction with the local county elections people.” 


Washington ballots being counted

Empty envelopes of opened 2020 vote-by-mail ballots for the presidential primary are stacked on a table at King County Elections in Renton, Wash. (Jason Redmond / AFP via Getty Images / File)

Walsh said state Republicans have been trying since 2016 to change the law requiring voters to declare their party “so that people can choose to be unaffiliated,” but have been blocked by the Democrat-led legislature.

One X user snapped a photo of their ballot envelope, showing where voters must declare themselves as Democrats or Republicans, writing on Thursday, “New Washington State envelopes for mail-in ballots. NEVER had to disclose my party declaration on the OUTSIDE of my ballot before. Don’t feel really good about this.” 

Cartoonist Scott Adams reposted it, writing, “How can this be real?” and X owner Elon Musk responded, “What!?”


Another voter wrote, “QUESTION- Why am I REQUIRED to list party affiliation on the outside of the envelope to VOTE?”

A third X user posted a picture of their envelope, writing, “Washington State Presidential Primary Ballot … you have to declare on the outside of the envelope?!? Also no option for independents! This is how ballots get tossed before they can even be counted!”

“We’re not keen on the law, but we understand it is the law and that we do need to comply both with state law and with some national and with some national party rules,” Walsh told Fox News Digital of the requirement to declare a party. 

He said the “spirit of the law” is to keep voters from people from “gaming the system, being part of one party and trying to vote in the other party’s primary” but he felt there could be genuine security concerns with the declaration being on the outside of the ballot. 

A voter drops a mail-in ballot into a mailbox in Everett, Wash. (iStock)

The Washington Secretary of State’s Office has included examples of protests voters wrote on their ballots in 2016 — in showing voters the correct way to mark their ballot — that included statements such as, “Actually I’m an Independent but if it makes you happy,” “Don’t tell me what I need to be … the voters are furious” and “I feel like I am being forced to choose a party and that’s not fair.” 

The voter’s party declaration choice is removed after 60 days, according to the secretary of state’s office, noting on its website, for the “Presidential Primary only, the major political parties require voters to mark and sign the party declaration. If you choose to participate, your choice of party will not affect how you may vote in future elections. You must mark and sign the political party declaration (box) on your envelope for your vote to count.” 

The office has not clarified why the declaration is on the outside of the ballot. Fox News Digital has reached out to the secretary of state’s office. 


Fox News Digital has also reached out to the Washington Democratic Party for comment. 

Washington’s presidential primary is on March 12. 

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