Washington state has been a leader in promoting voting rights and serves as an important model for other states. In 2018, Gov. Jay Inslee signed the “Access to Democracy” bills that included automatic voter registration, same day voter registration, pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, and a state version of the national Voting Rights Act.

Washington has taken additional steps to make elections more fair and free in 2019. Democrats introduced and enacted the Native American Voting Rights Act of Washington (SB 5079), which allows Native Americans to use nontraditional addresses if living on a reservation and permits tribes to request additional election resources from Washington.

Washington Democrats also passed legislation to fund prepaid ballot postage for vote-by-mail ballots (SB 5063). The bill makes Washington’s vote-by-mail process even more accessible and fair.

Washington Democratic legislation (HB 1924SB 5076) that would have automatically restored voting rights to individuals with felony convictions who are in community custody did not advance this term. Yet, Washington was able to pass legislation (SB 5207) to educate individuals with felony convictions about their voting rights being restored when they are no longer incarcerated or in community custody. We hope the Washington legislature focuses on restoring voting rights to all eligible Washington voters next session.

Democrats introduced legislation to address Washington’s high ballot rejection rate (HB 1861), but that measure did not advance. However, Washington was able to pass legislation (HB 1545) to improve the state’s ability to cure ballot defects in order to ensure an accurate vote count.

Republican legislators in Washington have still tried to pass undemocratic legislation, but have fortunately failed. GOP state Rep. Bradley Klippert introduced legislation (HJR 4202) that sought to make it more difficult for citizen ballot initiatives to pass and legislation (HJR 4204) that would allow individual counties to not implement measures passed by citizen ballot initiative. 

We look to Washington to continue being a leading state in promoting voting rights in the next legislative session.