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Ballot Counting Explained

Washington County works closely with the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office to uphold a high standard when conducting each election. What does this look like as we count all eligible ballots?
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What happens after a ballot is returned to Washington County’s Elections Office? How does the counting process work?

When counting each eligible ballot, Washington County carefully follows state elections law and the steps outlined in the Secretary of State’s Office’s Vote by Mail Manual. More about how this process works can be found in this video in English and Spanish.

Or download the brief PDF explainer.

When reviewing election results on the Secretary of State’s Office, why is the number of “accepted” ballots different than the number of “votes” for countywide races?

The answer has to do with these key process steps the County must follow under Oregon’s vote-by-mail system. 

1. Ballot envelopes are scanned and sorted. The bar code on each ballot envelope is scanned. A total number is communicated to the Secretary of State’s Office for publication on the state’s webpage as “ballots accepted” if:

  • Ballots are active for the current election.
  • Ballots are from active, registered Washington County voters.
  • Signatures on the envelopes match those in the registration file.

2. Envelopes are processed. Factors affecting how many ballots get counted include:

  • Signature challenges.
  • Multiple ballots in envelope.
  • No ballot in envelope.
  • Ballot from another county in envelope.

3. Ballots are tallied. Ballots are tallied by state-certified scanning machines. These results are uploaded to the Secretary of State’s Office and rendered as part of their results web page. The number of ballots counted for countywide contests may be less than the total number of ballots accepted. In addition to the factors mentioned for processing ballots, this is because voters do not always vote on every contest on their ballots.

How long does the Elections Office have to process each eligible ballot for the 2022 General Election?

Under Oregon law, the results from elections must be certified with the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office within 27 days of the election date. For the 2022 General Election, that means the results must be certified by Monday, December 5, 2022. Unofficial results will continue to be posted to the Secretary of State’s Office elections results website as shown on the county’s schedule for election results reporting can be found online.

Visit to learn about elections in Washington County. The Elections Office is located at 2925 NE Aloclek Drive, Suite 170 Hillsboro, Oregon 97124.


Silvia Pereida
Public Relations and Communications Coordinator