Making Democracy Work

Improve access to the ballot, particularly for those previously convicted of a felony, modernize elections to allow for better representation and more flexibility, facilitate better understanding of initiatives.

Issue Team Chair: Kathy Sakahara, 261-7797
 DOWNLOAD the Elections Issue Paper

Interested in getting involved with this topic? Click here! 

News This Week

This week SB 5038 was passed on concurrence in the Senate, and was delivered to the governor. We know that he is hearing from thousands of those who opposed any kind of restrictions on guns, regardless of how reasonable. It is critical that he hears from you as well.  Please send him an email now urging him to sign this bill.

This bill joins two other successes we saw this session: voting rights restoration, protecting ballots from fraudulent drop boxes. Now we shift our focus to the 2022 session. All bills that were introduced but didn't pass will still be alive next year. We will continue to support closing the revolving door from legislators to lobbyists, local option for right choice voting and eliminating advisory votes from the ballot.

Over the interim our primary focus will be on providing voter education on Citizen Initiative Review (CIR). The Senate State Government and Elections Committee will hold a work session on CIR, likely in November. We have an active group of volunteers working on a tool kit to help spread the word. If you would like to get involved, or if you're local group would like to hear a presentation on this groundbreaking approach to constructive decision making, please reach out to Kathy Sakahara.

Bills the League Supports That Passed Both the House and the Senate

HB 1078 Voting rights restoration: This bill will strengthen our democracy, increase public safety, and promote racial justice by automatically restoring the right to vote for every citizen living in the community.

 Passed! Governor Inslee signed this bill into law on April 7, 2021, and it goes into effect January 1, 2022.

SB 5015 Protecting ballots: This bill would make placing nongovernmental receptacles that appear to be official drop boxes a gross misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to one year and/or a fine of up to $5,000. This bill passed the Senate unanimously.

 Passed! This bill passed both chambers on a strong bipartisan vote and has been signed by the governor.

SB 5038 Protecting elected officials, government employees and the right to assemble: Prohibits openly carried weapons on the state Capitol grounds and at rallies and gatherings on public property. The bill not only protects public safety but also enables free, unintimidated speech. Violence and threats of violence have erupted in our nation’s Capitol and in state capital cities, including Washington's.

 Passed! The Senate concurred with amendments made in the House The bill will soon be sent to the governor for his signature. Please send him an email encouraging him to sign.

Bills the League Supports That Failed to Pass

SB 5148 Harassment of election workers: This bill makes harassing an election worker a Class C felony. Across our country, there has been an unconscionable rise of threats toward election workers—from elected positions to our front-line workers, counting and tabulating ballots, all selflessly doing their civic duty to uphold our democracy. Among many others, there are examples in our state as well as Georgia. This bill would clearly outline in our law that those who wish to violate our democratic process by harassing or threatening not only election officials, but also the front-line temporary staff and permanent staff who are counting, tabulating, and processing our ballots, will be subject to a Class C felony. The bill passed the Senate 46-2 and was scheduled for a vote in the House Committee on Public Safety, but no action was taken. It appears that this bill is dead for this session.

HB 1156 Ranked choice voting (RCV): This bill would allow local jurisdictions the option to use RCV for local elections. The LWVWA positions clearly support alternative election systems, including RCV, which 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.  

The bill originally included an option for eliminating all odd-year elections, but the sponsor agreed to remove that portion. This bill also includes a provision for legal cost reimbursement for lawsuits filed under the Washington Voting Rights Act if the jurisdiction settles. The current law provides reimbursement only if the challenge is settled in court, which serves as a discouragement for an out-of-court settlement.

SB 5170 Closing the revolving door: Employment after public service, establishes a one-year “cooling-off” period before elected officials and high-level employees can work as a lobbyist influencing state public policy. Thirty-seven states, as well as the federal government, have cooling-off period/revolving door laws. The disclosure required by this bill of postemployment income sources will strengthen transparency and confidence in the integrity of government.

SB 5182 Eliminating Advisory Votes: Advisory votes are questions that appear on the ballot regarding state expenditures that have already been passed by the legislature. Although their wording, such as "repealed" and "maintained" suggests that they are binding referendum, 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.

SB 5250Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR): CIRs provide invaluable, objective voter information on initiatives. Citizens’ Initiative Reviews have been shown to deliver accurate, clear, and trustworthy information to voters in the form of objective and factual evaluations of ballot initiatives—both positive and negative impacts. We are disappointed that this bill did not move this session. We will have an ongoing public information campaign over the interim.

HB 1453 Voters' pamphlets: This bill would require county auditors to provide a local voters' pamphlet, standardize guidelines for candidate statements for all voters’ pamphlets, both those provided by county and the state. Currently the standards are inconsistent and create significant confusion. The bill also adds in a requirement for voters’ pamphlets to be mailed to service and oversee voters who request them.

The bill originally included guidelines on candidate statements that would have prohibited obscene and offensive comments. That provision was removed by amendment before the bill was passed in the House by a vote of 90-7. The Senate State Government and Elections Committee amended the bill to include similar language as well as to eliminate some of the pages regarding advisory (nonbinding) votes. It is on its second reading in the Senate.

Bills the League Opposes That Failed To Pass

HB 1003 Requiring watermarks on mail-in ballots: This bill would limit ballots to only those mailed to voters. Currently voters who have lost their ballot can print one along with the envelope, sign it, and know it will be counted. This bill would disenfranchise voters and add cost and burden to election offices.

HB 1014 Election of the governor by county: This bill would establish a county-based electoral college for electing the governor. There is no clear reason why electing governor should be different from any other elected office. The League's position is that the direct popular vote method for electing our officials is essential to representative government.

SB 5143 Eliminating vote by mail and other voter access tools: This bill would eliminate vote by mail and return us to polling place voting, adding a picture ID requirement. It would also eliminate same-day voting and require that any absentee ballots that are requested must be returned by Election Day. 

SJR 8202 Term limit for the governor: This would amend the Constitution to create a term limit for governor of four years.

SJR 8203  Establishing term limits: This bill would place a limit of eight years for anyone serving in the legislature. The LWVWA has always opposed term limits because they take away a voter’s opportunity to vote for the candidate of their choice. 

How To Be Involved
  • Please join the Democracy Team to apply your knowledge and skills and build on them. For the new Citizens' Initiative Review legislation, we will need help with research, social media, and building public knowledge and support. If you would like to get involved, email Elections Issue Chair Kathy Sakahara.
  • Stay in contact with your legislators.
  • Reply to Action Alerts.
  • Subscribe to the LWVWA Legislative newsletter so that you receive it weekly on Sundays during the session starting Jan. 10, 2021 and ending in May 2021.
  • If you missed any program from the 2021 Democracy Lobby Week, view recordings of public events on the Democracy Lobby Week page

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