State House passes bill to give local voters stronger voices

  • Wednesday, March 1, 2017 11:20am
  • News
State Rep. Mia Gregerson, D-SeaTac.

State Rep. Mia Gregerson, D-SeaTac.

The state House of Representatives passed the Washington Voting Rights Act on Monday in Olympia in an effort to give every community a voice in democracy.

This marks the fifth year in a row that the House has passed this legislation; earlier versions have not made it out of the Senate. The legislation will create a swifter and less costly path to justice for individuals who have been shut out of their local elections, according to a House Democrats media release. The measure went to the Senate on Wednesday for a first reading.

“It’s not an easy task to rethink the way we have always made democracy work,” said Rep. Mia Gregerson, D-SeaTac, the prime sponsor of the legislation. “Today the House voted to strengthen democracy by giving communities another option to have their voices heard.”

The bill, HB 1800, initially modeled after the Federal Voting Rights Act, would allow communities who are systemically disenfranchised in local government elections to challenge the process in state court, after a six-month cooling off and negotiating period. Unlike the Federal Voting Rights Act, which typically requires lengthy and expensive litigation, this new state process would be quicker and less costly. Before even going to court, the Washington Voting Rights Act would require that the parties work toward a collaborative solution.

By empowering these jurisdictions to fix the problem. It will lower costs for local governments and taxpayers. Municipalities that make meaningful change would be protected from future lawsuits.

The result would be an improved process for addressing systems that perpetually under-represent the needs of some voters, such as moving to districted elections instead of at-large. Underrepresented voters would have a stronger voice in the government closest to them.

“Changing election processes can have a meaningful impact,” said Rep. Zack Hudgins, D-Tukwila, chair of the State Government, Elections & Information Technology Committee. “As we have seen in Yakima and Seattle, switching to district-based elections results in government that is representative of its citizens.”

“Representative government starts with having elected officials that understand local issues and have the trust of the community,” said Gregerson. “Unfortunately, in some places the system that we have been using for decades is no longer working for everyone. This law would help to safely break down an archaic system that makes it difficult for disenfranchised communities. I am hopeful that with each year we pass this bill we are a step closer to creating a system that provides accountability for elected officials at every level.”


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kentreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

t
Kent Police bust alleged chop shop on East Hill along South 240th St. | Photos

14 stolen vehicles, several trailers, car parts, firearms and drugs reportedly found on site

t
Sound Transit plans light rail community meetings about S. 272nd St. impact

Scheduled for Feb. 28 and March 14 at Woodmont Library on Pacific Highway South

t
Man identified who died of medical emergency in Kent while driving car

King County Medical Examiner’s Office rules death of natural causes in 132nd Avenue SE crash

t
Man, 29, fatally shot on Metro bus in Kent identified

No charges filed against shooter who reportedly acted in self-defense

t
Aegis Living Kent earns Joint Commission memory care certification

Program designed to enhance the care of residents who suffer from memory-impacting conditions

t
New Puget Sound Fire engines to hit Kent streets | Photos

Kent will get four new vehicles for East Hill, city of SeaTac one

Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. FILE PHOTO
Discarded cigarette leads to arrest of Kent double homicide suspects

DNA reveals man, woman who reportedly killed two people in January 2023 at local motel

t
State Patrol chief thanks public for support of trooper shot in Kent

Trooper’s injuries are not life threatening despite being shot multiple times

t
Boy, 17, fatally shot in Kent in exchange of gunfire identified | Update

Shooting between subjects in vehicles Feb. 20 along East Valley Highway near South 180th Street

Car damaged by bullets during Feb. 19 Interstate 5 shooting. (Courtesy of Washington State Patrol)
King County Councilmember wants more info about I-5 shootings

The letter, addressed to WSP Chief John R. Batiste, comes in wake of a Feb. 19 drive-by shooting that occurred on I-5 in Tukwila that left a victim in critical condition.

t
Kent man, 83, dies after medical emergency while driving on East Hill

Reportedly died from medical issue prior to single-car crash Feb. 2o along 132nd Avenue SE

Rep. Mia Gregerson. COURTESY PHOTO, Legislative Support Services
Gregerson state bill aims to improve immigration support

Designed to better address needs of refugees, immigrants arriving in Washington state