Thank you Washington State Senate!
Thank you Washington State Senate! Abolition passes!

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:

Roll Call
SB 5339
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.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

Adjacent posts