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Published on Friday, February 26, 2016

Voting Rights bill gets striking amendment, still on the move

HB 1745, Rep. Luis Moscoso (D-Seattle), was heard in the Senate Government Operations & Security Committee where it was amended with a striking amendment and voted out of the committee.

Under HB 1745 members of a protected class would be allowed to file an action against a local government demonstrating that their combined voting preferences as a group are different from the rest of the electorate, and that polarized voting exists. This action requires local governments to review their election processes and change their electoral system. This change includes, but is not limited to, implementing a district-based election system. If a local government does not change its election process, members of the protected class may file an action in a trial court.

The striking amendment made several changes to the bill, which include:

  • Removing fire protection districts, port districts and public utility districts from the provisions of the act.
  • Allowing courts to find that a violation of the act has not occurred where the protected class is not compact or concentrated to constitute a majority in a single member election district.
  • Allowing, but not requiring, courts to find that a violation of the act has occurred if a cohesive minority population, in combination with other voters, is large enough to elect its chosen candidate in a single member election district.
  • Requiring courts to consider whether the proportion of the subdivision's legislative authority who are protected class members is the same as the proportion of the general population who are members of the protected class in determining whether polarized voting exists.
  • Removing the requirement that all elected positions with at least two years remaining in the term be subject to new elections in jurisdictions that voluntarily adopt new electoral schemes under the act.
  • Prohibiting an individual who has filed an unsuccessful federal vote dilution claim against a jurisdiction from filing a claim under the act against the same jurisdiction for four years from the inception of the federal claim.
  • Limiting provisions of the act to cities or towns with a population of at least 2,000.

AWC has taken a neutral position on this legislation, and remains neutral with the new changes.

The bill will now move to the Senate Rules Committee.

Categories: General government