Submitted by Erich R. Ebel, communications director for the Washington Office of the Secretary of State
The governor has signed into law a series of bills aimed at improving Washingtonians’ access to voting and the elections process. House Bill 2595, House Bill 1513, and Senate Bill 6002, signed at Foster High School in Tukwila Monday, implement automatic voter registration, the Future Voter Program and the Washington Voting Rights Act respectively.
“These new laws are a positive step forward for our state’s elections, as they improve both public access and security in the registration process,” said Secretary of State Kim Wyman, the state’s chief elections officer. “Making it easier for citizens to register streamlines access to the ballot box so more Washington residents can make their voices heard.”
Wyman worked for three years to build support for the automatic registration program enacted by HB 2595, having first proposed the idea in 2016. The change in state law will add citizens to voter rolls when they obtain enhanced drivers’ licenses or identification cards and reduce paperwork in the voter-registration process.
“If one of our residents is already providing proof of citizenship as part of a transaction with the state, along with the other requirements, why wouldn’t we register that person to vote?” Wyman asked.
Wyman is also proud of the Future Voter Program enacted by HB 1513. The new law encourages high school teachers to hold voter registration events for young adults that coincide with Temperance and Good Citizenship Day, which falls annually around mid-January. Additionally, the Superintendent of Public Instruction will provide civic education programming for teachers to use in class.
HB 1513 exempts all information provided by minors from the Public Records Act until they turn 18, and requires the Office of Secretary of State to obtain a copy of the applicant’s driver’s license or Identicard signature from the Department of Licensing. Future Voters’ status will remain pending until it is determined that they will turn 18 before the next election.
The Washington Voting Rights Act created by SB 6002 provides Washington citizens with a means to legally contest elections that exhibit disparities between voters in protected classes and other voters. If the assertions are found to be valid, a court can require the subdivision to redistrict or create a district-based election system. Jurisdictions will also have the authority to revise districts without court intervention.
“This legislative session focused heavily on election-related issues, and I’m pleased to see that some of them have finally become law,” Wyman concluded. “All these are great achievements, however, there remain several key elements that would give Washington voters stronger voices in the national conversation: an earlier presidential primary and state primary. These are common-sense ideas I will doggedly pursue in the coming weeks and months.”
Washington’s Office of Secretary of State oversees a number of areas within state government, including managing state elections, registering corporations and charities, and governing the use of the state flag and state seal. The office also manages the State Archives and the State Library, as well as documents extraordinary stories in Washington’s history through Legacy Washington.