Washington is on its way to becoming the next state to abolish the death penalty.
By a vote of twenty-eight to nineteen, the Washington State Senate today voted to repeal the unconstitutional statute that permits prosecutors to seek death sentences for people who have been convicted of first degree murder. Senate Bill 5339 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Support for abolishing the death penalty is very high, according to NPI research. Last year, 69% of Washingtonians surveyed told our pollster that they preferred one of three life in prison alternatives to just 24% who said they preferred the death penalty, while 8% said they were not sure. (Read more about our finding.)
Senate Bill 5339 would replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole, which is the alternative endorsed by respondents in our poll.
The legislation passed out of the Senate with bipartisan support. Here is the roll call:
Death penalty elimination
3rd Reading & Final Passage
Yeas: 28; Nays: 19; Excused: 2
Voting Yea: Senators Billig, Carlyle, Cleveland, Conway, Darneille, Das, Dhingra, Frockt, Hasegawa, Hawkins, Hunt, Keiser, Kuderer, Liias, Lovelett, McCoy, Mullet, Nguyen, Palumbo, Pedersen, Randall, Rolfes, Saldaña, Salomon, Walsh, Warnick, Wellman, Wilson (Claire)
Voting Nay: Senators Bailey, Becker, Braun, Brown, Ericksen, Hobbs, Holy, Honeyford, King, O‘Ban, Padden, Rivers, Schoesler, Sheldon, Short, Takko, Van De Wege, Wagoner, Zeiger
Excused: Senators Fortunato, Wilson (Lynda)
Three Democratic senators voted against repealing the death penalty: Steve Hobbs, Dean Takko, and Kevin Van De Wege. Their no votes were canceled out by the yes votes of three Republicans: Maureen Walsh, Judy Warnick, and Brad Hawkins.
The Senate’s six new Democratic members (Mona Das, Liz Lovelett, Joe Nguyen, Emily Randall, Jesse Salomon, Claire Wilson) all voted in favor of the bill.
“I have the deepest personal respect for how important this issue is for victims’ families and I’m so grateful for the reflection and grace of the dialogue in the Legislature,” said Senator Reuven Carlyle, a longtime proponent of abolition.
“I’m pleased that our state is on the path toward joining the global movement toward abolishing the death penalty,” Carlyle continued. “Closing the books on this chapter in our state’s history is a responsible public policy step, given where the courts and our state have come, and this measure solidifies our statute in a way that makes it clear and unequivocal for years to come.”
“After working on this issue for so long, I’m pleased and incredibly humbled that the state Senate has taken this important step forward.”
So are we. We thank Senator Carlyle and Senators Jamie Pedersen and Manka Dhingra for their leadership on this human rights breakthrough.
Last year, when the Senate passed this bill for the first time, it was a watershed moment. Now the focus shifts back to the House of Representatives. For the bill to reach Governor Inslee’s desk, at least fifty representatives must vote for it.
We believe the votes exist to pass this bill in the House and we’ll be working alongside fellow abolition supporters to secure a vote and win that vote.