ELECTIONS, CAMPAIGN FINANCE & GOVERNMENT ETHICS

Improve access to the ballot, reduce the influence of special interest money, and increase transparency in government and politics.

Issue Team Chair: Kathy Sakahara – ksakahara [at] lwvwa.org – (206) 261-7797
Interested in getting involved with this topic? Click here! 
2019 Legislative Session Recap

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.

      Bills the League Supported That Passed
      • HB 1375 Applying campaign contribution limits to candidates for all port districts. Currently the limits apply only to certain port districts, including those that have over 200,000 registered voters. Passed the House 98-0. Passed the Senate, 47-0. Signed by the Governor on April 23, 2019.
      • HB 1379 Regarding disclosure of contribution from political committees to other political committees. Currently political advertising is required to show the top five donors that paid for the ad. Based on a loophole in the law, the top donors listed are sometimes other political action committees (PACs) with appealing but unrecognized names. This loophole can be used to hide the true donors behind the campaign ad. This bill would close that loophole by requiring that the top donors listed be the individuals, corporations or nonprofits that actually contributed. Passed the House 91-5. Passed the Senate 27-21. Delivered to the Governor, scheduled to be signed May 7, 2019.  
      • SB 5063 Providing prepaid postage for ballots. This would continue the practice used in the 2018 election of eliminating the need for a stamp on mailed ballots. Passed the Senate 42-3. Passed the House 83-10. Signed by the Governor on April 29, 2019. 
      • SB 5079 Native American Voting Rights Act. Will enable mail-in ballots for those living on native lands but without a recognized street address. SB 5079 passed both the Senate and the House on a strong bipartisan vote and has been signed by the Governor
      • SB 5207 This bill would require that the Department of Corrections provide inmates with a felony conviction with information on how to restore their right to vote along with a voter registration form. Too often someone leaves the prison system believing that their right to vote has been taken away permanently. People in prison can be difficult to reach by outside agencies wishing to help with various aspects of re-entry and the DOC is in the best position to educate people under its jurisdiction about this important right. Passed the Senate, 37-12. Passed the House, 76-21, 1 excused. Passed both the Senate and House on a strong bi-partisan vote and has been signed by the Governor. 
      Bills the League Supported That Did Not Pass
      • HB 1067 Establishes a one-year “cooling off” period before high-level government officials, including elected officials can work as a lobbyist influencing state public policy.
      • HB 1291 / SB 5073 Requiring the state to reimburse County auditors for the proportionate cost of elections involving state offices. This reimbursement is critical for stable election funding and will enable counties to expand efforts such as outreach and cybersecurity.  
      • HB 1924 Allowing those with a felony conviction to have their right to vote restored while they are serving community custody (“parole”). This bill would have protected the right to vote for someone who has failed to pay their legal financial obligations (LFO’s). Having the right to vote be dependent on ability to pay LFOs presents an additional obstacle for persons with low income.
      • SB 5076 This bill would have also allowed people who are serving a term of community custody to register to vote as long as they were following the conditions of their community custody. Currently, that right is not restored until they have completed this term. 
      • 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. 
      • ESB 5294 Creating leave provisions for legislative service. This bill would require most employers to provide unpaid leave to workers while they are serving as a legislator. LWV strongly supports the concept of “citizen legislators.” Legislative service is considered part time, but the current system makes it difficult for many individuals who are not wealthy or self-employed to even consider running for office. 
      Bills the League Opposed That Did Not Pass
      • SJM 8002 Joint memorials encouraging Congress to call for a “limited” Constitutional Convention. The League opposes this because there is no way to guarantee that the convention would be limited to issues of free and fair elections. Congress has made no rules about constitutional conventions, so none of the criteria that the League of Women Votes of the United States’ position calls for could be guaranteed. Our call for a constitutional convention could be combined with other states' calls on different topics (balanced budget amendment, anti-choice amendment) in order to meet the threshold required. For more information see this excellent analysis of the threat by Common Cause. 
      ELECTION METHODS
      Promote the adoption and implementation of election methods that maximize representation and citizen participation.

      Issue Team Chair:
       Barbra Chevalier
       – barbra.n.chevalier [at] gmail.com – (425) 445-2281
      Interested in getting involved with this topic? Click here! 


      Bills the League Supported That Did Not Pass 

      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.

      ELECTION SECURITY

      Promote security, accuracy, auditability, and transparency in elections.

      Issue Team Chair: Kirstin Mueller – kpmueller [at] gmail.com – (425) 293-5046
      Interested in getting involved with this topic? Click here! 
      2019 Legislative Session Recap 

      The League looked to work with legislators during the 2019 legislative session to improve election security by supporting:

      • Improved cybersecurity measures to ensure our voting system can be defended against attacks.
      • Publicly verifiable post-election audits and easy and timely access to audit results.
      • Improved reconciliation reports including greater detail of ballot rejection rates.
      • Improved tracking and procedures for chain of custody of voted ballots.
      • Public access to election records including ballot images and cast vote records when voter privacy and ballot anonymity can be maintained.
      • Retention of election records for longer periods of time, allowing for greater opportunity to detect and recover should an election be subject to error or interference. 

      We expect those bills we supported that did not pass to be reintroduced in the next session. 

        Bills the League Supported That Passed
        • HB 1545 Requiring election officials to maintain a daily record during ballot processing of when and how voters are contacted to cure a mismatched or missing signature on their ballot. Passed the House 91-7. Passed the Senate 41-7. Signed by the Governor on April 29, 2019. 
          Bills the League Supported That Did Not Pass
          • HB 1251 Requiring the secretary of state to submit an annual report of any security breaches of the state’s electoral systems.
          • HB 1819 Regarding election reconciliation reporting requirements. County auditors would be required to reconcile ballots issued, received, counted, and rejected by precinct.
          • 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 & REDISTRICTING

          Ensure the redistricting process is accessible and transparent with timeframes that enable input and strengthen results and support an accurate and complete 2020 Census.


          Issue Team Chair: Alison McCaffree – alison.mccaffree [at] stanfordalumni.org – (253) 720-6813
          Interested in getting involved with this topic? Click here! 

          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.

          2019 Legislative Session Recap

          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. 

            Bills the League Supported That Passed
            • Capital Budget SHB 1102 The General Fund budget has passed the House & Senate with $15 million allocated for outreach for the 2020 Census. There is an additional $5 million that can be raised.
            • 2SSB 5287 Known as the "prison gerrymandering" bill, this bill seeks to amend the Census data with information from Washington's corrections department and adjust the numbers for more accurate representation in creating congressional, legislative and local districts. If prisoners in Washington State where formerly from outside the state or have an unknown prior address, they will be removed from the data for the purposes of redistricting within Washington. This will not affect Washington's apportionment in the U.S. House of Representatives. Passed the House 27-21. Passed the Senate 57-39, 2 excused. Delivered to the Governor for signature. 
            Bills the League Watched That Passed
            • SB 5502 Relating to alignment of statutory deadlines to the Constitution as amended by the voters to November 15 of the year ending in 1.
            Bills the League Supported That Did Not Pass
            • HB 1396 Regarding changes to the requirements of redistricting maps and adds restrictions on redistricting commissioners in participating in or donating to campaigns. This bill adds an efficiency gap measurement requirement as a way to ensure there is no extreme partisan gerrymandering. The sponsor of this bill has asked that it not have a hearing. The conversation on improvements to redistricting has begun and will continue into the interim.
            • SB 5496 Regarding district boundaries and precincts within them. This bill lays out a deadline for auditors filing changes to precincts and requires that precincts to be wholly outside of or wholly within any city or town; adjusting contiguity requirements as necessary.

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