Democratic State Rep. Luis Moscoso’s Washington Voting Rights Act goes to the full House of Representatives after a committee approved it along with four other elections bills.
Members of the House Government Operations and Elections Committee approved five pieces of legislation Monday, including the Voting Rights Act, a bill aimed at ending voter exclusion and promoting diversity in elected office.
The Washington Voting Rights Act would encourage cities, towns and other local jurisdictions to switch from at-large elections to smaller districted elections. The bill, Moscoso said Tuesday, would empower local communities that have difficulties getting community members elected in at-large elections. The bill would exempt municipalities with populations under 1,000 and school districts with less than 250 students but would give people in qualifying communities the ability to sue in state courts if they feel their rights are being violated.
“Our country was founded on equal opportunity, and it is vital that we make sure that everyone has a voice and an equal shot in our elections,” Moscoso said. “Creating smaller, more localized districts will increase the accountability of elected officials, help local communities elect representatives more in tune with their values and foster a greater diversity of ideas — never a bad plan in government.”
Another bill that the committee forwarded to the full state House Monday would change the registration deadlines leading up to an election from the current 29 days prior to Election Day to the day of a given election for an in-person registration with the auditor’s office and eight days for online registration.
A third bill would increase the number of postage-free ballot drop box locations throughout the state. The bill would require at a minimum that ballot drop boxes must be placed at each of Washington’s public universities and community colleges as well as school district headquarters and high schools.
A fourth bill would allow for the pre-registration of 16 and 17 year olds who obtain their driver’s license — making them eligible to vote once they reach the age of 18. Sponsors said that motor-voter registration is the most popular form of voter registration in the state, and added, “Allowing 16 and 17 year olds to register makes good sense with Washington’s five year driver’s license renewal policy since their next chance to use motor voter would we when they turn 21 or 22.”
The final bill would require county auditors and the secretary of state to develop a uniform ballot design for use in all elections in the state. Currently each county gets to choose its ballot format and design which, sponsors say, often causes confusion for voters moving from one county to another. It would also enable counties to work with the state to develop a master contract for purchasing ballot-processing equipment, providing the opportunity for them to save money by purchasing in bulk.
Moscoso represents the 1st Legislative District including most of Mountlake Terrace, all of Brier and Bothell, north Kirkland, unincorporated areas of King County between Bothell and Kirkland, and unincorporated areas of Snohomish County north and east of Bothell.
Evan Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org