Another day, another victory for voting rights.
Minutes ago, in a rare Saturday session, the Washington State Senate resoundingly passed a bill that provides for automatic voter registration, removing yet another barrier to voting in our great state. E3SSB 6353 (the E3SSB stands for Engrossed Third Substitute Senate Bill, what a mouthful) passed by a vote of thirty-four to thirteen. Two members of the Senate did not vote on final passage.
“Voting is a right, not a privilege,” said Senator Sam Hunt (D‑22nd District: Olympia), the prime sponsor of the bill. “We need to make voting as easy as possible for every citizen in Washington and that starts with registration.”
“We now have the technology to make it seamless, so why wouldn’t we? Automatic voter registration will increase the opportunity to register and vote without endangering the security of the election process.”
E3SSB 6353 is legislation requested by Governor Inslee, and as such, it has a House companion, 2SHB 2595, which was placed on the House’s floor calendar by the Rules Committee on Thursday, where it continues to await floor debate and a vote.
“It is our most fundamental duty to make sure our democracy is accessible to every single eligible voter,” Hunt added in his statement. “This legislation is just one more bill in a larger push to expand access to democracy in every corner of our state.”
The roll call on E3SSB 6353 was as follows:
Automatic voter registration
Senate vote on 3rd Reading & Final Passage
Yeas: 34; Nays: 13; Excused: 2
Voting Yea: Senator Billig, Braun, Carlyle, Chase, Cleveland, Conway, Darneille, Dhingra, Fain, Fortunato, Frockt, Hasegawa, Hawkins, Hobbs, Hunt, Keiser, Kuderer, Liias, McCoy, Miloscia, Mullet, Nelson, O’Ban, Palumbo, Pedersen, Ranker, Rolfes, Saldaña, Sheldon, Takko, Van De Wege, Warnick, Wellman, Zeiger
Voting Nay: Senator Angel, Bailey, Becker, Brown, Ericksen, Honeyford, King, Padden, Rivers, Schoesler, Short, Wagoner, Wilson
Excused: Senators Baumgartner and Walsh
Every Democratic Senator voted aye. The Senate Republicans were split. Nine crossed over to support the bill: John Braun, Joe Fain, Phil Fortunato, Brad Hawkins, Mark Miloscia, Steve O’Ban, Tim Sheldon, Judy Warnick, and Hans Zeiger.
The Senate Democratic caucus noted in its bill passage press release that the Senate has also passed the Washington Voting Rights Act, Same Day Voter Registration, and Andy Billig’s DISCLOSE Act. These bills are collectively known as the State Senate’s “Access to Democracy” package. They have support in the House as well.
Passage of automatic voter registration is an adopted 2018 NPI legislative priority, and NPI supported and participated in the recently-held Democracy Lobby Day to advocate for these bills in Olympia along with the League of Women Voters of Washington, Fix Democracy First, and other allies.
NPI has been on record in support of automatic voter registration for many years. In fact, I wrote a column for Reporter Newspapers calling for automatic voter registration way back in June of 2009:
Instead of creating hoops that Washingtonians have to jump through in order to be able to vote, our Legislature should get to work on making the Evergreen State the first in the nation to have true automatic voter registration.
The technology is in place to make such a system possible; for example, the state now has a central voter database maintained by the Secretary of State, and SB 5270 makes it possible for a voter’s registration information to migrate with them when they move within the state.
Any Washingtonian over eighteen who applies for a license to drive should be automatically added to the rolls, and those not of age should be automatically added on their eighteenth birthdays, unless they explicitly opt not to [or are not a citizen].
It should also be possible for anyone who is eligible to register at any time — even on Election Day — if they don’t happen to be already.
Our election laws should be based on the assumption that people want to vote, not that they don’t want to.
Automatic voter registration is just what we need to break down the modern- day barriers to voting that are artificially dampening voter turnout and hurting the vibrancy of our democracy.
It’s taken a long time to get to automatic voter registration, but it’s finally happening. Oregon did beat Washington to the punch when Governor Kate Brown signed the country’s first automatic voter registration bill into law, but that’s okay… it’s good for Washington and Oregon to be in friendly competition with each other to get progressive ideas enacted into law.