While Washington has been fine-tuning its vote-by-mail system for the past decade, the process has generated more interest this year as the coronavirus pandemic has pushed more states to opt for mail-in voting.

In King County, the elections office hired about 650 temporary workers this year — a number on par with past presidential election years — with a little over half assigned to the ballot processing floor in Renton, where ballots are scanned and signatures are verified, said department spokesperson Halei Watkins. The others work in ballot collection, data entry or customer-service jobs, she said.

This year, Watkins said the office looks quite a bit different, in an effort to keep their workers and the public safe and healthy. Staffers are masked at all times, and ballot-processing workers are always wearing gloves. The layout of the office has also been adjusted to allow for more social distancing, she said, and the department added plexiglass throughout the building.

“For many years, we were the largest vote-by-mail jurisdiction in the world. … We really set the gold standard here in King County and Washington state on how to do vote-by-mail in a way that’s safe and secure,” Watkins said.

But what happens after you stick your ballot in the mail or a drop box? Here’s how the tabulation process works in King County.