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Published on Friday, January 10, 2014

Washington Voting Rights Act

Last year, a proposal to establish a Washington Voting Rights Act, HB 1413, passed the House of Representatives but failed to pass the Senate. The proposal creates a cause of action for local elections that are perceived not to reflect the voter population or where racially polarized voting may have occurred.

Cities and other local governments expressed a number of concerns about the proposal including the lack of a preliminary study about polarized voting, a lack of definitions in the bill, creation of a pathway to litigation rather than a proactive approach to ensuring diverse local representation, the absence of a requirement for data or evidence, and a lack of opportunity to discuss growing the pipeline of eligible candidates for local office.

Representatives of local governments recently discussed these and other concerns with the proponents in hopes of exploring alternatives to a litigation bill. Although the discussions are in the infant stages, they have been positive. It is unclear if HB 1413 will be active again this legislative session, but if it is, local governments will continue to express concerns with the current language.

Categories: General government