Democracy: Elections, Voting Rights, & Campaign Finance

Issue Team Chair: Kathy Sakahara – ksakaraha [at] – (206) 261-7797

Update for the Week of March 18, 2018: 
Please Join Us Monday to Celebrate
Success for our Democracy Bills!

We started this year’s session with high hopes for election reform, and we have not been disappointed. ALL of our priority election bills have passed and five of them will be signed by the Governor at a special celebration. 

Monday, March 19th 2-4PM, Foster High School,  4242 S 144th St, Tukwila.

Please join us if you can. It is a great opportunity to meet our legislative champions, our allies and have your photo taken with the Governor. You will even receive a memento of the day! We are asked to wear blue. If you plan to attend this event or have any questions please contact Kathy Sakahara.

The five bills being signed include the WA Voting Rights Act, Automatic Voter Registration, Same Day Registration, Youth Preregistration and the DISCLOSE Act.

What does this success mean for our state? It means that many more people will be registered to vote, communities of color will have a fair opportunity to elect candidates of their choice at the local level, major political donations can no longer be hidden by nonprofits and that we can feel more secure and confident in the accuracy of election results. And it means that Washington is now a national leader in pro-voter reform

Now What?

Most of the League's advocacy work around elections has been focused on one or more of these reforms for at least a decade. With their successful passage, it is not too early to start thinking about what’s next.

Democracy is always a work in progress and there is still much work to be done. Advocacy does not need to wait until January when the legislature is back in session. Here are some of the issues that we will be working on for the rest of the year, and we would love your involvement in any and all.

Public records: After the well publicized failure of SB 6617, we will be working with legislators and other stakeholders on drafting an appropriate legislative public records bill that provides transparency on government decision-making and protects privacy of individuals. Because of the strong public interest generated it will also be important for the League to provide education around this issue. If you would like to help please click here.

Public Disclosure Commission (PDC): The PDC, charged with providing access to information about campaign financing and lobbyist expenditures, is committed to continuous improvement in accomplishing its mission. That requires ongoing review of relevant statutes, administrative rules (WAC's), the reporting forms, and the I.T. systems filers and the agency staff use. The passage of ESHB 2938  strengthens and clarifies the PDC's role in enforcement. In order to implement the new law, the PDC will need to create additional rules as well as update forms, trainings and guidance for filers. The PDC has asked for assistance from LWVWA in these areas. We will establish a team that will work in the coming months to:

  • provide advice and expertise on proposed rules and other modifications to fully implement ESHB 2938
  • participate in user groups as the I.T. staff work to update the campaign and filer software
  • gather input from filers on their experiences 
  • review the statute and make suggestions for possible improvements.

Election security: Even with the passage of the post-election audit bill, we will continue to work with policymakers on ways to achieve a truly secure election system:

  • Audits:  We expect the Secretary of State to begin the process of rule formation for risk-limiting audits in the near future, and we will be weighing in with recommendations for best practices. 
  • Paper Ballots & Online Voting:  Our goal is for voter-marked paper ballots to be the basis for vote tabulation, as there are no proven methods to ensure the security of online voting.  We will continue to educate policymakers, elections officials, and voters on the cybersecurity concerns of all aspects of internet voting. The benefit of paper is preserving the ability to check that votes were counted as cast should any errors, tampering, or fraud be suspected. 
  • Online Voter Registration & Database:  Washington will be updating its election management system (EMS) including online voter registration and voter database sometime in the near future.  We will continue to monitor progress and pose security questions as the process unfolds.

Campaign finance:  While we celebrate the success of the DISCLOSE Act, there are other bills that did not pass this session. We anticipate that those will be high priority issues for us next year. They include closing the revolving door between high-ranking government officials and lobbyists and providing greater transparency of PAC (Political Action Committees) donations to other PAC’s.

If you are interested in being part of any of this work, please contact Kathy Sakahara.

Bills the League Supported That Passed 
  • ESSB 6002 Washington Voting Rights Act promotes stronger local elections by giving every voter a fair chance to elect leaders of their choice. It authorizes district-based elections where at large systems and racially polarized voting have excluded communities of color from a fair chance at representation. This is very similar to the WA Voting Rights Act that LWVWA has supported for the last five years. Washington is only the second state to pass its own VRA, the other state being California.
  • HB 2595 Automatic Voter Registration (AVR), will expand the number of registered voters by having state agencies register those who have proven citizenship. The original bill would have not only registered voters applying for Enhanced Drivers’ Licenses at the Department of Licensing, but would have extended to those who are required to verify citizenship in various agencies under the Department of Health and Social Services. The final version requires full implementation only at the DOL and slightly modified implementation through the Health Benefit Exchange. It also requires that each state agency offering public assistance study the implementation of AVR and any barriers and report to the Governor by December 1, 2018. He will then determine which agencies will implement AVR. 
  • SB 6021 Same Day Voter Registration, allows a citizen to register to vote any time before 8pm on the day of an election. The voter would complete a provisional ballot, which would not be counted until their voter registration was confirmed. SB 6021 passed the Senate on a bi-partisan vote and narrowly passed the House.  
  • HB 1513 preregistration, will allow for 16 and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote by mail or at any state agency, including the DMV. The registration would not become effective until they turn 18, and all personal information on a registration form cannot be disclosed until that time. The bill also provides for voter sign-up and registration events in high school classes on Temperance and Good Citizenship Day on January 16 or the preceding Friday. 
  • SB 5991 Washington State Campaign Finance DISCLOSE Act, will increase transparency and accountability, deter corruption, and strengthen confidence in the election process by closing campaign finance disclosure loopholes and requiring the disclosure of contributions and expenditures by nonprofit organizations (501(c)4's) that participate significantly in Washington state elections. This will apply to organizations contributing or spending $25,000 or more in an election cycle.  LWV WA was the few organizations that actively supported this bill.
  • HB 2406 post-election audits, will ensure the accuracy and security of our election results by requiring county auditors to conduct at least one method of post-election audit after each election. One option includes risk-limiting audits. The Secretary of State would select at least one statewide and one countywide contest for a risk-limiting audit and would devise rules for escalating audits if discrepancies are found. It also outlines notification requirements should a voting system breach occur. Passed both Houses with near unanimous approval. 
  • ESHB 2938, Concerning campaign finance law enforcement and reporting, will address the problems that had arisen over the last few years in the “Citizen Action” campaign finance complaint process. That process is a necessary option when neither the PDC nor the Attorney General is enforcing a law, but it had been used for 100's of complaints, some very trivial, to go straight to court before the PDC had time to respond or resolve the situation. The bill passed by wide margins in both houses (94-4 and 48-0). 
  • HB 2887 Addressing county commissioner elections. Requires noncharter counties with a population at or over 400,000 to conduct district-based elections for commissioner positions, beginning in 2022. This bill applies only to Spokane County.

  • HB 2007 Celebrating Women’s Suffrage Centennial. While LWV is preparing to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, Washington State is making moves to do the same. These bills provide funding for the Washington Women’s History Consortium to begin preparing for the Centennial by planning, not only celebrations, but a series of educational programs about the history of women’s suffrage and how it corresponds to the importance of voting. The League of Women Voters of Washington certainly looks forward to playing a leadership role in the planning and developing of educational materials. While the bill itself was not passed, the funding requested in the bill was included in the final supplemental budget.
A Bill Whose Process Was Fatally Flawed
  • ESB 6617 legislative public records, created a separate standard for public disclosure to legislative records, out of the Public Records Act. While the bill did extend public access beyond current practice, its rushed passage without benefit of public input or full discussion which was unacceptable to many, including LWVWA. The bill passed both houses and was ultimately vetoed by the Governor. Ironically the veto was supported by the very legislators who had passed it after intense public outcry. 
    Bills the League Supported Which Did Not Pass 
    • SB 5108 prohibiting masking of political donors, would increase transparency by prohibiting political-action committees from getting 70 percent or more of their contributions from another single political committee, or a combination of political committees. This bill passed the Senate 29-18 but died in House Rules. 
    • SB 5120 / SHB 1159 concerning employment after public service in state government, establishes a one-year cooling-off period before high-ranking government officials could leave service and then return as lobbyists. Both bills were passed by committee but died in Rules.
    • SB 6075 disclosure of contributors to online political advertising, would require social media sites to make records of those who purchase political advertising available on request. Passed out of committee on a bipartisan vote but died in Rules.
    • SB 5019, HB 2432 / HB 2378 prepaid postage for ballots, would eliminate the poll tax of buying a stamp in order to mail in a ballot.
    • HB 2746SB 6402 Local Options Bill, allows local governments to adopt alternative voting procedures. These might include Ranked Choice Voting, without the need for a primary and proportional voting, with multiple winners from a given district. These systems are used all over the world, but currently state law does not allow local jurisdictions to try them out for themselves. 
      Additional Resources:
      Issue Team Chair: Kirstin Mueller –  kpmueller[at] – (425) 293-5046

      Bills the League Supported That Passed 
      • HB 2406 post-election audits, would ensure the accuracy and security of our election results by requiring county auditors to conduct at least one method of post-election audit after each election. One option includes risk-limiting audits. The Secretary of State would select at least one statewide and one countywide contest for a risk-limiting audit and would devise rules for escalating audits if discrepancies are found. It also outlines notification requirements should a voting system breach occur. 
      Additional Resources: 

      Issue Team Chair: Alison McCaffree – alison.mccaffree [at] – (253) 720-6813

      Additional Resources:

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