Making Democracy Work
Elections

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, ksakahara@lwvwa.org(206) 261-7797
 DOWNLOAD the Elections Issue Paper

Interested in getting involved with this topic? Click here! 

News This Week—Citizens’ Initiative Review bill, Democracy Lobby Week

(Interested in the 2020 Session Recap? Click Here)

2021 Democracy Lobby Week 2/22-2/26
Registration open! We have all had to give up so much due to the out of control pandemic, but it will not stop us from gathering—at least virtually—together to work to expand democracy in Washington. Our 4th annual Democracy Lobby event, cosponsored with Fix Democracy First, will start on February 22 with optional events throughout the week. Learn more and register by visiting our event page.

Citizens’ Initiative Review

Our Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR) bill has been introduced! It is SB 5250. 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.

New format
We are using a new format below to make it easier for you to see our bills listed at a quick glance as well as offer more in depth analysis for those of you who want it. Please note that each bill we support is listed twice, once with a fairly brief explanation and the bill number linking to more in-depth information below, which will link to the bill page on leg.wa.gov. We hope this makes this page easier to use and would appreciate your feedback on the format.

Bills Needing Action This Week, Click on Bill # to see additional information.

Voting Rights Restoration 
HB 1078 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. HB 1078 was heard in the Committee on State Government and Tribal Relations and is expected to move quickly.

 ACTION ALERT: Please contact both your Representatives and urge passage of this bill.

Eliminating Advisory Votes
SB 5182 These are questions that appear on the ballot regarding state expenditures that have already passed. This bill will be heard on Wednesday 1/20 in the Senate State Government & Elections Committee at 8:00 a.m. 

 ACTION ALERT: Please sign in as Pro on this bill. Go the Senate Remote Testimony page, select State Government and Elections, 1/20 8:00 a.m., SB 5182, and “I would like my position noted for the legislative record” and sign in Pro. Please consider testifying on your own behalf.


Other Bills the League Supports, Click on Bill # to see additional information.

Protecting ballots
SB 5015
 This bill would make the placement of non-governmental 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 $5000.

Bills We Are Watching  

Ranked Choice Voting 
HB 1156 would allow local jurisdictions the option to use RCV for local elections. But it also provides for an option of eliminating all odd year elections. LWVWA positions clearly support alternative election systems, including RCV, but do not specifically address of odd year elections. We could support this bill wholeheartedly if the reference to eliminating odd year elections were removed. We support the underlying bill because 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.  See more about Ranked Choice Voting—FairVote Washington


Bills We Oppose

Requiring watermarks on mail-in ballots
HB 1003
 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.

Election of the governor by county. Washington State Legislature
HB 1014
. This bill would establish a county-based electoral college for election of the governor. There is no clear reason why the election of the 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.

Additional information on bills we support Click on Bill # to summary page on legislative website

SB 5250 Citizen's Initiative Review The League envisions a democracy where every person has the desire, the right, the knowledge, and the confidence to participate in democracy. We believe in empowering voters and know that knowledge is power. Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR) is emerging as a formidable tool to providing citizenry to become confident, informed voters.

CIRs provide invaluable, objective voter information on initiatives. While ballot measures in Washington State drive some of the largest policy decisions, voters often find them too complicated to understand. That can lead to confusion and frustration. This is compounded by well-funded campaigns flooding voters with biased messaging and misinformation. 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. Research has shown that there is a significant impact on support for an initiative that has non-obvious consequences as a result of people reading a CIR.

Benefits:

  • Voters found the CIR helpful in making decisions
  • Reading a CIR positively influenced voting likelihood
  • CIRs counter misinformation, making voters better informed
  • CIRs are reliable, clear, comprehensive and easily understood by a general audience
  • Voting decisions can be impacted by reading a CIR
  • CIRs boost the public’s internal and external efficacy

The bill will be introduced this year by Senator Sam Hunt of Olympia. Senator Hunt is also chair of the Senate State Government and Election Committee. We expect the bill to be referred to that committee so we are confident it will be heard. This will be a major priority for our democracy advocacy this year and we'd love to have many people involved. We're looking to put together a tool kit and do massive public education. If helping get CIR in Washington is something you'd like to help with, please reach out to Kathy Sakahara at the email address above.

To learn more about CIR visit Citizens’ Initiative Review Research Project for a wealth of information and publications regarding the need for, effectiveness and history of, and best practices for CIRs, and Healthy Democracy, an early leader in the Citizens’ Initiative Review process.

HB1078/SB 5086 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. When 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. Returning citizens can have their right to voted denied if they are unable to pay their legal financial obligations (LFOs). This presents an additional obstacle to voting for persons with low income.

Washington’s current law has caused confusion among everyone from election officials to voter registration volunteers to prospective voters themselves about who is eligible to vote. If every citizen living in the community can vote, officials have a bright line rule to apply, making it easier to determine who is eligible to vote.

Learn more at Washington State Voting Rights Restoration Coalition.

SB 5182 Eliminating advisory votes  These are questions that appear on the ballot regarding state expenditures that have already passed. Although their wording (Repealed | Maintained) suggests that they are binding referenda, 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 5015 Protecting ballots: The 2020 election season brought about new attempts to deceive and confuse voters. We saw reports of receptacles that appeared to be official drop boxes but in fact were not. This bill would make this practice a gross misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to one year and/or a fine of up to $5000.


How You Can Be Involved

In addition to contacting your legislator, you can join the Democracy Team to apply your knowledge and skills and build on them. For the new Citizen Initiative Review legislation, we will need help with research, social media and building public knowledge and support.

There will also be lots of opportunities to get involved in this year’s Democracy Lobby Week. If you would like to get involved email Kathy Sakahara.


The League of Women Voters of Washington is a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization.
The League of Women Voters of Washington Education Fund is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. LWVWA Education Fund contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowable by law. The League of Women Voters Education Fund does not endorse the contents of any web pages to which it links.

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