Elections

Ways & Means declines to take up NPI’s even year elections bill, ending its 2024 run

The Ways & Means Com­mit­tee of the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate today chose not to con­sid­er NPI’s leg­is­la­tion to give cities and towns the free­dom to choose their own elec­tion tim­ing dur­ing its final meet­ing before this evening’s oppo­site cham­ber fis­cal cut­off, end­ing its remark­able run in the 2024 leg­isla­tive session.

House Bill 1932, prime spon­sored by State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mia Gregerson (D‑33rd Dis­trict: South King Coun­ty) became the first even year elec­tions bill in mod­ern times to get a floor vote ear­li­er this month when it passed out of the Wash­ing­ton State House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives on a bipar­ti­san vote. The bill would have allowed cities and towns that are cur­rent­ly forced by state law to hold their reg­u­lar­ly sched­uled elec­tions in low turnout odd years to switch to high­er turnout even years.

The Sen­ate State Gov­ern­ment & Elec­tions Com­mit­tee kept the bill alive last week by amend­ing it and giv­ing it a “do pass” rec­om­men­da­tion, but in a behind-the-scenes pow­er move, it was shipped over to the bud­get-writ­ing Ways & Means Com­mit­tee instead of being sent up to Rules, despite being a pol­i­cy bill that had an “inde­ter­mi­na­tive” fis­cal impact as assessed by OFM staff.

(OFM is the Office of Finan­cial Man­age­ment. It is an exec­u­tive branch agency, and one of its duties is to ana­lyze the poten­tial cost of pro­posed legislation.)

At a hear­ing last Fri­day, cur­rent and for­mer elec­tions admin­is­tra­tors argued the bill would be cost­ly, desta­bi­liz­ing, and infea­si­ble to imple­ment, even though evi­dence and expe­ri­ence from around the coun­try demon­strate that it is a proven reform that can increase and diver­si­fy turnout while also sav­ing tax dollars.

Tes­ti­fy­ing in oppo­si­tion were Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sec­re­tary of State Steve Hobbs, for­mer Repub­li­can Sec­re­tary of State Sam Reed, and audi­tors Mar­i­anne Nichols of Pend Oreille Coun­ty and Vicky Dal­ton of Spokane County.

“We ask you as pol­i­cy­mak­ers to pri­or­i­tize what is best for the health of our democ­ra­cy,” I respond­ed in my pre­pared tes­ti­mo­ny. “In this case, that is clear: Adopt the only avail­able elec­toral reform that can as much as dou­ble turnout in local elec­tions while also diver­si­fy­ing it. Elec­tion admin­is­tra­tion should serve elec­toral jus­tice; elec­toral jus­tice should not be sub­servient to elec­tion administration.”

Shore­line City Coun­cilmem­ber Chis Roberts and Shan­non Grimes from Sight­line Insti­tute joined me in mak­ing the case for the bill.

Shan­non fol­lowed up this morn­ing with a pol­i­cy note exam­in­ing the objec­tions to House Bill 1932 and review­ing the schol­ar­ly research on the sub­ject. That post is a must-read, and we encour­age all Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate read­ers to check it out.

We’re dis­ap­point­ed that HB 1932’s jour­ney has come to an end, but we’re very proud of how far it got through the leg­isla­tive process in the face of fierce (and mis­guid­ed) oppo­si­tion from Wash­ing­ton’s elec­tion administrators.

It is not unusu­al for a bill fac­ing more than token oppo­si­tion to require a mul­ti-year effort to pass. That has been true for many bills that we have worked on. For exam­ple, we ini­tial­ly ran our leg­is­la­tion to get Tim Eyman’s push polls repealed in 2019. But it did­n’t reach Gov­er­nor Inslee’s desk until last year — 2023.

In the span of a lit­tle over a year, our team and NPI’s allies took this bill from the draw­ing board to more than halfway through the state­house. Plen­ty of good bills nev­er get even beyond a hear­ing in their first or sec­ond ses­sions. Since Jan­u­ary of 2023, we’ve got­ten three con­sec­u­tive “do pass” rec­om­men­da­tions for this leg­is­la­tion (includ­ing for its sib­ling, SB 5732) from pol­i­cy com­mit­tees in the House and Sen­ate, plus this ses­sion’s floor vote in the House that I men­tioned earlier.

I am con­fi­dent that we’ll be back in the 2025 long ses­sion with an even bet­ter bill for law­mak­ers to con­sid­er. This is an idea that vot­ers love and sup­port — an idea with unmatched poten­tial for mak­ing Wash­ing­ton’s elec­tions more inclusive.

On behalf of our team, NPI’s Kathy Saka­hara and I would like to thank every­one who helped cham­pi­on House Bill 1932 this ses­sion, especially:

  • State Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Mia Gregerson, Darya Fari­var, Bill Ramos, Sharlett Mena, Chris Stearns, and Joe Fitzgibbon
  • State Sen­a­tors Javier Valdez, Pat­ty Kud­er­er, Bob Hasegawa, and Sam Hunt
  • Alan Durn­ing and Shan­non Grimes at Sight­line Institute
  • Jazmine Smith and the Wash­ing­ton Bus
  • Cindy Black and Fix Democ­ra­cy First
  • Abi­gail Leong and Fuse Washington
  • Alex Alston, Caron Cargill, and the Wash­ing­ton Vot­ing Jus­tice Coaltiion
  • Joseph Lach­man and ACRS
  • Kamau Chege and Lau­ren Allen with the Wash­ing­ton Com­mu­ni­ty Alliance
  • Kenia Pere­gri­no and Wash­ing­ton For Equi­table Representation
  • Shasti Con­rad and the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Party
  • Pro­fes­sors Zoltan Haj­nal and G. Agustin Markarian
  • Can­dice Bock and the Asso­ci­a­tion of Wash­ing­ton Cities
  • Shore­line City Coun­cilmem­ber Chris Roberts
  • Port Ange­les City Coun­cilmem­ber Lind­sey Schromen-Wawrin
  • Our good friend Ron Davis

At NPI, we believe in enjoy­ing the jour­ney. We thor­ough­ly enjoyed cham­pi­oning House Bill 1932 this year with so many won­der­ful and sup­port­ive allies and will trea­sure all the hap­py mem­o­ries that our work togeth­er cre­at­ed. In the com­ing months, we’ll have more to share about our plans for the 2025 session.

Andrew Villeneuve

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.

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