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Welcome to AWC’s online library of Legislative Bulletin and CityVoice news articles and other updates.

Published on Monday, January 15, 2018

Voting Rights Act bills heard – Senate committee passes a substitute bill

Both the House and Senate heard bills during the first week of session that could change whether your city council elections take place citywide or are divided by voting district. The bills would also allow claims alleging a violation under the Act to be brought in state court.

As we’ve shared previously, AWC has monitored versions of these bills during the past few years. We expect that a bill will pass this year as the topic is a priority for Democrats and the Governor.

Hearings in both chambers drew many who testified in support of the proposals. The legislators also heard testimony from those who had concerns with how the Act would be implemented if passed, including testimony from AWC. Highlights from AWC’s testimony include:

  • We support bill provisions that provide cities with voluntary authority to change their election system to address potential concerns – authority that is not currently available to code or second class cities.
  • Cities support longer notice timelines and requirements to allow jurisdictions to address identified concerns and potential remedies provided to the city before a legal challenge is filed.
  • We appreciate “safe harbor” provisions that prevent a jurisdiction from being sued within four years if the jurisdiction has made changes in response to a court-ordered remedy under the Act.
  • We have concern with bill provisions that create an assumption of violation and an unprecedented burden of proof on jurisdictions as they attempt to remedy an alleged violation.
  • We are concerned that smaller cities and towns will find it difficult to either divide into districts or to fill council seats from such small districts.

Both bills, HB 1800 and SB 6002, were scheduled for executive session on Friday morning. Each committee received several amendments and proposed substitutions. The Senate State Government, Tribal Relations & Elections Committee passed a substitute version of SB 6002.

The House Committee on State Government, Elections & IT took no action Friday but has scheduled HB 1800 for executive session on Tuesday, January 16 at 8 am.

Stay tuned as these bills will continue to get early attention in the session. Please contact Shannon McClelland with any questions or concerns.

Categories: General government
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