Big Changes Coming To Voting Rights And Access In Washington
Youth age 16 and 17 will soon be able to pre-register to vote in Washington. That’s just one of several voting-related bills the governor is scheduled to sign into law Monday.
Washington will join states like California, Oregon and Utah that already allow teens as young as 16 to pre-register to vote. Gov. Jay Inslee will also sign bills allowing for same-day voter registration and to allow customers of the state’s Health Benefit Exchange to automatically register to vote.
In addition, Inslee will sign into law a state Voting Rights Act that advocates have been fighting for for years. It allows members of a protected class of voters to bring a legal challenge if they feel their votes are being diluted by at-large elections.
This was an issue in the city of Yakima a few years ago where Latinos comprise 40 percent of the population, but held no seats on the city council. After a lawsuit forced a shift to district-based elections, three Latinos were elected to the council.
Finally, Inslee will sign a bill known as the DISCLOSE act designed to shed light on so-called “dark money” in politics. It will require all nonprofit organizations that spend $25,000 or more on campaigns and elections to file reports with the state’s Public Disclosure Commission.
Supporters say it will lead to greater transparency in campaign spending by non-profits that don’t have a separate political committee. Opponents counter it’s an effort to muzzle free speech.
In the Pierce County elections center, a small crowd gathered just outside of the ballot tabulation room on the morning of Oct. 17. With packets in front of them that show expected results and pens ready to catch any mistakes, the observers were there to make sure Pierce County’s ballot counting system is ready for the general election.
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