Making Democracy Work

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, 261-7797
DOWNLOAD the Elections Issue Paper

Interested in getting involved with this topic? Click here! 

Looking Towards the 2020 Session, Starting January 13

(Interested in the 2019 Session Recap? Click Here)

The big news this  week is the 2020 Democracy Lobby Day in Olympia on Tuesday, January 21. The response has been overwhelming and we have regrettably needed to cut off registration because we are over full for the day but we do plan to live stream the event from our Facebook page at Lake

We are following over 70 bills , 47 of which have had action this year. Highlights of these include employment after public service, youth voting opportunities through education, foreign national ownership, PDC campaign finance administration, and employment after public service bills.

Please continue to stay involved throughout the year Your involvement can be anything from contacting your legislators to researching and lobbying on a bill.

Click on Bill # for detailed information.  See UPDATES below.

Bills the League Supports
  • HB 2292 / SB 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 over represented 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 6313 / HB 2558  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, for registration, voting and other civic engagement  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.  It also adds a mandatory one-half credit stand-alone civics education requirement in high schools 
  • SB 6134 / HB 2421   Would require 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.   It also adds $1.6 million specifically for voter outreach. UPDATE: SB 6134 was heard this week and is expected to be voted out of committee in the upcoming week (1/22)
  • SB 5224 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 1722 / SB 5708 This bill regulates and creates 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. Last year HB 1722 advanced to House Appropriations Committee, where it had a hearing & awaits a vote; & SB 5708 is awaiting a hearing in the Senate State Government Committee.

    Bill the League is Watching

    • SSB 5270  Moves the date for the state primary election (not presidential primary) to the third Tuesday in May. Currently those elections are scheduled for the first Tuesday in August. We support the idea of an earlier primary as there is strong evidence that it will increase turnout. This bill would also loosen some restrictions on incumbents to solicit campaign donations during special sessions . Some County auditors have expressed concern about being able to draw precinct boundaries in time in the year that the state completes redistricting. We will do additional research on this bill. It was heard  in the Senate State Government, Tribal Relations & Elections Committee. Julie Wise , King County Director of Elections testified in support, as did Jay Jennings with the Secretary of State’s office, for moving the primary to May  However, the Secretary of State’s office was opposed to lessening restrictions on soliciting campaign donations during session, citing Initiative I-134.
    • HB 2415  Conforming elections for certain special districts with Title 29A RCW. This bill We expect a bill to be introduced shortly that would require that elections for certain special purpose districts, including conservation districts, be placed on the general election ballot. Currently these elections are conducted by the special purpose districts themselves, and a voter must request a ballot in order to participate. As we demonstrated in our 2011 study of conservation districts, this results absolutely abysmal voter turnout. 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 are concerned about the current requirement that the districts themselves pay for their share of the election. Many of these districts do not collect taxes, have extremely small budgets, and simply could not pay the cost of the election. UPDATE: This bill will have a hearing in the House State Government & Tribal Relations Committee on Friday, 1/24 at 8 AM.
    • HB 2529  Odd-numbered year elections significant evidence this would create turnout in local elections, there are concerns about a ballot with too many races on it and the inconsistency of workload for County election offices.

    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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