Voting Rights

Voting and elections are important issue we face this year.  As chair of the Senate State Government, Tribal Relations, and Elections Committee, it has been an honor to lead the campaign to pass the Access to Democracy package in 2018-20. Enactment of this group of laws made Washington the nation’s leader in voting and elections.

The new laws that make up the Access to Democracy package include:

  • Election Day voter registration
  • Automatic voter registration
  • 16-17 year-old preregistration
  • Voting centers on college campuses
  • Prepaid return postage on ballot envelopes
  • Requiring ballot drop boxes in each incorporated city or town
  • Controlling third party campaign contributions
  • Washington Voting Rights Act
  • Native American Voting Rights Act

In spite of glitches in the Secretary of State’s new VoteWA software that created challenges for county auditors in 2019 and 2020, we have a safe and secure elections system.  Washington has used vote-by-mail since the 1990s and made it mandatory for all elections in 2011.  We were very fortunate to be a vote-by-mail state when we conducted the 2020 Presidential Primary election. It resulted in the highest voter turnout percentage of any 2020 presidential primary in the country.  Unlike Georgia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and other states, there were no long lines of people waiting to vote.  We voted at home and used prepaid postage or one of the many secure, postage-free ballot drop boxes to deposit our ballots.

As civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis says, “Today, we should be making it easy, simple, and convenient to vote… The vote is the most powerful, non-violent tool we have in a democratic society.  We must not allow the power of the vote to be neutralized.  We must never go back.

Voter suppression needs to stop!

As Washington voters, we need to push for increased voter access to elections across the country. Vote by mail is safe and secure, despite claims to the contrary.  It is not right to create unnecessary barriers to voting. For instance, rather than making absentee ballots available to anyone who may want one, Texas limits access to those who are 65 years or older; disabled; out of the county on election day and during the period for early voting by personal appearance; or who confined in jail, but otherwise eligible – and further requires voters to have their applications for absentee ballots notarized (which seems a lot like a poll tax in my opinion). It is not right for the election officials in Milwaukee to close all but five polling places in Milwaukee.  It is not right for voters in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia all have to provide a reason to request an absentee mail-in ballot.

As the Chair-elect of the national Council of State Governments, representing legislators and state elected officials in the 50 states, I am making voting rights and Access to Democracy my priority issue.  I am willing to tell legislators and officials from other states that they are wrong in trying to suppress voting rights by creating barriers and impediments to voting. 

The time has come—it should already be history—for every American to have easy access to safe and secure voting, just like voters in Washington State.  I hope you will join me in this effort.  Let your friends and family in other states know that Washington does it right!