Going into the 2018 session of the Washington State Legislature, Secretary of State Kim Wyman presented a list of proposed changes to state law to improve our state’s elections process.
Now that the state House of Representatives and Senate have adjourned sine die, here’s a look at how proposals supported by Secretary Wyman fared.
Presidential primary date change: Washington’s quadrennial (every four years) presidential primary would have moved from May to March under Senate bill 5333 and House bill 1469, which were filed at Secretary Wyman’s request. The goal was to give Washington voters more voice in each party’s presidential nomination process, since a May primary often means Washingtonians are voting after nominees are already decided. Alas, despite bipartisan support in a session replete with elections-related measures, both bills never made it out of committee. The idea will have to wait for another session.
Future voter program: The House and Senate bills Secretary Wyman requested to enable young adults to pre-register to vote by the time they turned 18 never made it out of committee. But House bill 1513, which passed the House 52-48 and the Senate 27-22, borrowed its language from Secretary Wyman’s proposal. It allows 16- and 17-year-olds to enroll as future voters, which will make them eligible as soon as they turn 18. Like her original proposal, the bill that passed creates a registration event in high school classrooms on Temperance and Good Citizenship Day in mid-January. It awaits the governor’s signature to become law.
Automatic voter registration: Although the Secretary of State’s requested bill to automatically register as voters the citizens who get enhanced drivers’ licenses or state ID cards did not emerge from committee, House bill 2595, which has a similar effect, passed the Senate 29-20 and the House 50-48. It’s now on the governor’s desk to be signed.
Washington Voting Rights Act: A bill endorsed by Sec. Wyman to give Washington citizens a mechanism to challenge the fairness of their local election systems is on the cusp of becoming law. Senate bill 6002 passed the Senate 29-20 and the House 52-46 and has been delivered to the governor’s office.
Election day registration: A bill allowing Washington citizens to register to vote in person up until Election Day passed the House 50-48 and the Senate 29-20. Sec. Wyman supported similar legislation, however she warned in a committee hearing that enabling Election Day registration before completing a $3.6 million project to modernize the statewide voter database would require the use of provisional ballots and other archaic mechanisms to ensure election security. That system upgrade is expected to be done in December 2019. Senate bill 6021, which is waiting for the governor’s signature, would take effect June 30, 2019.