Washington Voting Rights Act '2.0' Strengthens State Law
Monday, May 15, 2023
Voting rights in Washington got an upgrade this legislative session.
House Bill 1048 is designed to make the Washington Voting Rights Act a more accessible and implementable law.
Rep. Sharlett Mena, D-Tacoma, sponsored the bill in the House. She said it can be hard for people to challenge potential discrimination in election systems, even with Washington's original Voting Rights Act.
"Bringing these notices and communicating with local subdivisions is costly and it's complicated." Mena pointed out. "The WVRA 2.0 creates new ways to access it. It lowers the barriers to access the voting rights act."
Mena explained the new law allows for cost recovery for communities and also allows organizations to provide standing in these cases. Mena noted it takes the burden off individuals to bring forward challenges. Opponents of the bill said it was redundant and unnecessary.
The law comes on the heels of a case in Yakima County where a settlement in a voting rights act case changed commission elections to ensure the area's large Hispanic community is represented in local politics. Mena recommended communities across the state take a look at their local elections and governments.
"At a statewide level, I don't think we're where we need to be," Mena stressed. "I think when we just look at voter turnout data, or we look at areas that are majority people of color and we're not necessarily seeing the outcomes consistent with what those communities are in line with, we have more work to do."
The Washington State Voting Rights Act 2.0 goes into effect in 2024.
Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.
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