The 2017 Washington State legislative session opened this week, and we wanted to let you know about our priorities for this session. We have five main priorities to make voting as accessible and barrier-free as possible. Ultimately, we believe that improving voting accesses makes government more representative of the public. Here’s a look at our top legislative priorities:
Better accommodate voters by providing more time to register
Eligible voters in King County currently have up to 29 days before an election to register to vote by mail or online, and they can register in person no later than 8 days before Election Day. We would like to provide additional time for registration. In the 2016 legislation session, SHB 1428 and SSB 5527 sought to extend the voter registration deadlines. Providing more time is both administratively feasible and less costly.
Pass the Washington Voting Rights Act
The Washington State Voting Rights Act is an important step to address the problem of voter exclusion. The proposed act recognizes that every community is different and should be allowed to elect candidates in as representative a manner as possible. It doesn’t mandate any particular voting system but simply provides local options.
Make it easier to register
There should be no barriers to registering to vote. Voting is our constitutional right and election organizations should make it as easy as possible.
- Pre-Registration: The vast majority of voters register through the DMV. It’s easy, convenient and efficient. Many drivers come in contact with the DMV at age 16 and then don’t interact with agency again until they are 21. Pre-registration of 16 and 17-year-olds allows us to capture these voters early and automatically enroll them when they turn 18.
- Automatic Voter Registration: Automatically enrolling voters when they get their driver’s license is the most efficient and effective way to add citizens to our voter rolls. Voting is your right – you shouldn’t have to take steps to get your ballot.
Pay for state election costs
The state currently pays only their share of election costs in odd numbered years, the opposite of when there are state races on the ballot. For King County alone, the average unfunded state election cost in these years is about $4 million. The King County General Fund currently covers this expense. We would like to see the state pay for election costs during years when there are state races on the ballot.
Allow online disability access to take the place of Accessible Voting Units (AVUs)
Amend the law to clarify that providing access to the internet at a counter can take the place of an Accessible Voting Unit (AVU).