Making Democracy Work
Elections

Improve access to the ballot and promote the adoption and implementation of election methods that maximize representation and citizen participation.


Issue Team Chair: Kathy Sakahara, ksakahara@lwvwa.org(206) 261-7797
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2020 Legislative Session Wrap Up

(Interested in the 2019 Session Recap? Click Here)

This session we saw success of our priority bills:

  • The VOTE Act, ESB 6313 , passed the House. This will allow those who will be 18 by the time of the general election to vote in the primary as well as setting up student engagement hubs at public universities where students can register to vote, get a replacement ballot and get nonpartisan voter information.
  • State reimbursement for election costs, HB 2421, passed the Senate in an overwhelming bipartisan vote. We have been working on this bill for years because it requires the state to pay a proportional cost for each state election as every other jurisdiction does. This will provide a significant and stable funding source to County election officers who can use some of that money for election security and voter outreach. Some counties have not had a local voters’ pamphlet due to lack of sufficient funds. This bill specifically requires the production of that pamphlet. There were some last minute negotiations in an attempt to keep the additional funding for voter outreach in the bill. That effort failed but the bill as passed is still a major victory.

It is important to note that the community support for these two bills were very different. LWV worked with a large coalition of organizations including of communities of color and young voters in achieving the passage of the VOTE Act. Of course, working in that diverse coalition is extremely valuable.

Support for election cost reimbursement came primarily from the county auditors, with the League being the only major group working on its passage throughout the session. We often have this unique role of being the only advocates for some important democracy related bills. We hear over and over from champions of these types of bills how critical the League’s voice is in representing the voters’ interests on these issues.

Click on Bill # for detailed information. See UPDATES below

Bills the League Supported That Have Been Signed Into Law
  • SB 6313  Voting Opportunities Through Education (VOTE Act) This bill would allow eligible 17-year olds who will turn 18 by the next special or general election to vote in the preceding primary election   This bill also adds on-campus student engagement centers.  The turnout rate for young voters is typically low compared to other demographics. Research shows that voting is habitual — young voters who participate early in their adulthood are more likely to vote consistently as they get older. Additionally, registering and activating young voters before they move out of their childhood homes leads to higher turnout rates. UPDATE: Signed by the Governor. 
  • HB 2421 Requires the state to reimburse counties for the proportionate cost of all elections involving state offices and ballot measures. This reimbursement is critical for stable election funding and will enable counties to expand efforts such as outreach and cybersecurity.  Also requires each County to produce a voter’s pamphlet.  Both bills originally added about $2 million specifically for voter outreach. HB 2421 passed the House with a bipartisan vote (80/16). The Senate Ways & Means Committee amended it to remove the voter outreach funding and passed that version. UPDATE:  Signed by the Governor. 
  • SHB 1520  Concerning calendar election dates on ballot envelopes.  Requires the county auditor to prominently display the date of the election on the envelope in which a voter receives a ballot and other election materials. UPDATE: Signed by the Governor.

Bills the League Supported That Did Not Pass
  • SSB 6228 Allows people convicted of felonies to have their right to vote restored while they are serving community custody ("parole"). Currently people with an incarceration history who have completed their sentence and are under community supervision are not eligible to vote in Washington. Those who fall behind on payments of their legal financial obligations (LFOs) can now lose their right to vote as well. If passed, this bill would bring 18,000 voters back into our democracy. Black, Indigenous, and other people of color are overrepresented in Washington prisons thanks to decades of racial and economic injustice. Having the right to vote be dependent on ability to pay LFOs presents an additional obstacle for persons with low income. Having the right to vote be dependent on ability to pay LFOs presents an additional obstacle for persons with low income.
  • SB 6610 Eliminating advisory votes. These are questions that appear on the ballot regarding state expenditures that have already passed. The results do not have any impact. They add significantly to the costs of elections and voters are not informed about them because reliable information is virtually impossible to find. Having votes that do not count for anything is inconsistent with League principles.
  • HB 2415 Conforming elections for certain special districts with Title 29A RCW. This bill would require that elections for certain special purpose districts, including conservation districts, be placed on the general election ballot. 

    Currently some of these districts require land ownership in order to participate, give additional votes based on the amount of land owned, and allow corporations to vote. While we support the placement of these elections on the general ballot, we recognize that very small districts may be unable to pay for their share of the election. This bill passed out of the House State Government & Tribal Relations Committee with amendments that would delay the effective date for districts with less than a $5 million budget.
  • HB 1722 / SB 5708 These companion bills regulate and create a framework for single and multi-member ranked-choice voting (RCV).  It would allow local jurisdictions the choice to use this tried and true voting method.  RCV offers voters more choice, eliminates the spoiler effect, encourages more positive, issued-focus campaigns, and may lower election and campaign costs when jurisdictions choose to eliminate primaries. There has been no movement on these bills this year. 
  • SB 5294 Creating leave provisions for legislative service. Requires that an employer grant a temporary leave of absence without loss of job status or seniority to an employee who is a member of the state Legislature.  This bill would require most employers to provide unpaid leave to workers while they are serving as a legislator. LWV strongly supports the concept of “citizen legislators.” Legislative service is considered part time, but the current system makes it difficult for many individuals who are not wealthy or self-employed to even consider running for office. Passed the Senate. Died in Rules.

  • HB 2396  Requires disclosure when a BOT communicates to a person in Washington to either incentivize a commercial transaction or engage in political advertising.  A BOT is defined as “an automated online account where all or substantially all of the actions or posts of that account are not the result of a person.”  The League strongly supports transparency in elections and politics. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Russian BOTs produced and disseminated misinformation on internet platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.  Millions of Americans consumed this misinformation.  Press reports and testimony from the intelligence community demonstrate such efforts continue today, and candidates from both parties are being targeted; this is not a partisan issue.  Such actions represent an ongoing threat to the integrity of our election process.  While HB 2396 does not prohibit BOT communication, it requires disclosure, which will enable voters to make more informed decisions about the validity of the information they are receiving.  This bill never came up for a vote on the Senate floor. It is likely we will see a similar bill in the future.


There are a number of other areas of Democracy that we are working on.  Please see Campaign Finance & Government Ethics, Census & Redistricting, and Election Security.


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