Our goal for the 2019 session was to: Improve access to the ballot, reduce the influence of special interest money, and increase transparency in government and politics.
The results of the session include some significant successes and some disappointments. However, all the bills that we supported that did not pass will be back in the 2020 legislature. We will be working with legislators and coalitions throughout the interim on efforts to see these bills passed next year.
In our efforts to improve access to the ballot, we are very happy about the success of SB 5063 which will provide pre-paid postage for ballots. This means that the lack of a stamp will not prevent someone from voting. We also saw passage of SB 5079, the Native American Voting Rights Act. This will remove current obstacles for those living on native lands to receive a ballot, as well as ensure that they have access to a drop box. What is especially exciting is that both bills passed on a strong bipartisan vote. The LWV has always held that voting access should not be a partisan issue, and for these bills it clearly is not.
An area where we have had mixed results is in efforts to expand voting access for persons formally convicted of a felony. SB 5207 passed, requiring that the Department of Corrections provide those people with information on how to restore their right to vote along with a voter registration form. This is more important than it may seem because voter registration volunteers frequently encounter people who say that they cannot register to vote because they had a felony conviction.
Two other bills that we supported, HB 1924 and SB 5076, would have restored voting rights as soon as someone is released from prison, rather than waiting until that person has served their term of community custody (parole). HB 1924 would have also prevented someone who is not current in paying their legal financial obligations from being struck from the voter rolls.
We also worked to reduce the influence of special interest money. We supported the successful HB 1375 which now applies campaign contribution limits to candidates for all port districts, regardless of their size.
One of our top priority bills, HB 1067 which would have established a one-year “cooling off” period before high-level government officials, including elected officials can work as a lobbyist influencing state public policy failed to pass. The ability to hire lobbyists with inside connections as well as to promise a lucrative job to a legislator is one of the many ways that well financed special interests exert undue influence.
Another common sense bill that failed was SB 5294 which would have created leave provisions for legislative service. Washington has a “citizen legislature”. This means that rather than limiting elected office to professional politicians, those wealthy enough to not need additional income or those in high-paying careers that offer them flexibility we want a diverse legislature with people from different professional and financial backgrounds. But for most low- or middle-income people, choosing to be a part-time legislator means quitting their current job. That situation prevents too many people from considering legislative service.
And finally, we had a huge success in efforts to increase transparency in government and politics with the passage of HB 1379 which requires that campaign ads list the actual people and corporations that are top donors rather than hiding behind shell PACs or political action committees with friendly-sounding names. This has been a priority bill for the League for a number of years, and we are one of very few groups fighting for campaign finance reform.
Thank you for your support on these bills. Please continue to stay involved throughout the year and into the next session.
HB 1722 / SB 5708 The Local Options Bill will create uniformity in state law by permitting jurisdictions across the state to adopt Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) and expand voter choice. SB 5708 was not passed out of the Senate State Government, Tribal Relations and Elections Committee. HB 1722 was voted out of the House State Government and Tribal Relations Committee, but it failed to leave the House Appropriations Committee. No further legislative action will be taken on the Local Options Bill this year.
You can read more about the League’s position on this issue by reading our study here.
The League looked to work with legislators during the 2019 legislative session to improve election security by supporting:
We expect those bills we supported that did not pass to be reintroduced in the next session.
HB 1820 Extends the retention period for the storage of election material, requiring elections with non-federal contests and federal contests to retain materials for at least 24 months. Electronic records would need to be kept for at least 5 years. Increasing the retention period allows for detection and recovery should an error or interference occur during an election.
HB 1821 Requiring standardized postelection audit reports. County auditors would need to include information such as the races audited, any discrepancies found, and the voting systems audited. Uniform reporting of audit results would allow for increased public confidence in election outcomes and election security statewide.
HB 1822 Enhancing election data by improving statewide election data collection and reporting standards.
HB 1823 Relating to the disclosure of electronic ballot images. Transparent elections are necessary for public trust and confidence in election outcomes. Allowing the public to inspect electronic ballot image files that are created when voted ballots are scanned during tabulation allows for greater public observation and participation in post-election audits.
HB 2111 Concerning enhancing cybersecurity by eliminating the return of ballots by fax and email. This act addresses cybersecurity attacks and reduces vulnerability and the risk of election tampering. This is accomplished by eliminating email and fax submission of ballots.
Census Action — Less than one year before the 2020 Census
Take action for the Census! Click here to sign the LWVUS pledge to be counted and to educate your community about the importance of the 2020 Census.
Census and redistricting got a good start in the 2019 session. The League joined a large coalition of organizations to get the legislature to allocate $15 million for Census 2020 outreach. Redistricting reform got off to a start with the passage of bill 2SSB 5287 that adjusts the count of prisoners to their home districts.
We had some initial conversations on the other initiatives of the League, such as increased transparency and public input in the redistricting process as well as our long-term goal of changing the structure of the commission itself. We will work in the interim to solidify support for bills we want to pass in the 2020 session.