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A Summary of New Laws Addressing Elections in Washington State

A Summary of New Laws Addressing Elections in Washington State

This article provides an overview of new laws relating to elections. Here are summaries of six new election laws passed during the 2018 legislative session.

ESHB 2406: Election Security Practices – Auditing and Equipment

ESHB 2406 is intended “to ensure integrity of elections and utmost confidence of the citizens.” Election security practices are enhanced by both auditing and equipment requirements. Audits, random checks, ballot polling risk-limiting audits, and independent electronic audits of the original ballot counting equipment are addressed. The Secretary of State (SOS) has responsibilities for each county plus a duty to report back to the legislature regarding best practices and uniform procedures. Manufacturers of voting systems or components of these systems now have a duty to disclose breaches of security immediately following discovery.

SHB 2528: Continuity of Operations Efforts for Elections

SHB 2528 adds a section to RCW 38.52.030 and requires the director of emergency management to maintain a copy of the Continuity of Operations Plan for election operations for each county that has a plan available.  The legislative intent in this bill includes a recognition that elections play a vital role in our democracy, and that it is important that election administrators are able to continue elections operations during emergencies.  

SHB 2887:  County Commissioner Elections

SHB 2887 is called The Responsible Representation Act. According to the Final Bill Report, only Spokane County currently falls within the definition of this law.

Beginning in 2022, any non-charter county with a population of 400,000 or more must have a board of commissioners with five members and must use district elections for its commissioner positions. In order to be ready for this change, the county must establish a redistricting committee by April 30, 2021, though members of this committee may not be appointed until after January 1, 2021. The law also sets forth the composition of these committees, qualifications of members, and procedures to follow in establishing districts. Redistricting will happen every ten years (“in each year ending in one”) under this law.

2SHB 1513: Future Voter Program

2SHB 1513 establishes the Future Voter Program. Effective July 1, 2019, teenagers not yet eligible to vote may register to vote in advance of their 18th birthday, either when obtaining their Washington Driver’s License as part of “Motor Voter” registration or while in school as part of the annual Temperance and Good Citizen Day in January.

In Washington, only 21% of 18—24-year-olds are registered to vote. Section 1 of this new law states the legislature’s commitment to granting equal access to voter registration for all voters and recognizes the importance of fostering lifelong civic participation. A “future voter” is defined as “a United States citizen and Washington state resident, age 16 or 17, who wishes to provide information related to voter registration to the appropriate state agencies.” A future voter may sign up to register to vote if he or she is 16 or 17 as part of the future voter program.

Motor Voter Registration. Effective July 1, 2019, when a future voter obtains a driver’s license there will now be an opportunity to register to vote in advance of turning 18 years old. This law requires DOL agents ask the future voter questions to assist with registering to vote, including: “Do you want to register or sign up to vote?” or “Are you a United States citizen?” or “Are you at least 18 years old or are you at least 16 years old and will you vote only after you turn 18?” (See RCW 46.20.155).

Voter Registration During School. Beginning in 2020, each year on January 16 (known as Temperance and Good Citizen Day), or the preceding Friday when the 16th falls on a non-school day, social studies teachers must, as resources allow, coordinate a voter registration event in each history or social studies class attended by high school seniors. County auditors may, as resources allow, help coordinate elements of the future voter program and participate in voter registration events for students. All students who will be 18 or older by the time of the next general election will be given the opportunity to register to vote online in their classrooms.

Pursuant to RCW 29A.08.110, a future voter registration application is considered complete when the person will be at least 18 by the next election. RCW 29A.08.125 requires the Secretary of State keep a statewide voter registration database with all future voters not yet 19 in a manner such that the records do not appear on the official list until no longer in pending status. RCW 29A.08.710(2)(b) provides that personally identifiable information is exempt from public disclosure until the subject is 18 years old. As part of this law, PRA exemptions were also added to RCW 42.56.230(1) and RCW 42.56.250(11).

ESHB 2938: Campaign Finance Law Enforcement and Reporting

ESHB 2938 is intended to simplify the campaign finance reporting and enforcement process, as well as to help ensure a level playing field. Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) enforcement procedures were expedited and definitions were provided for “actual violation”, “remedial violation”, and “technical correction.” Several amendments were also made to chapter 42.17A RCW to update and revise campaign finance reporting and enforcement. There is also a new section for citizens’ actions brought in the name of the state.  

SSB 6021: Extends Voter Registration

Beginning June 30, 2019, SSB 6021 allows in-person voter registration until 8:00 PM on Election Day, rather than the current deadline of 8 days before the election. Online and mail-in registration applications may be submitted no later than 8 days before Election Day, rather than the current 29-day deadline.

Recommended Resources

Here are some additional resources on election laws.

Questions? Comments?

If you have comments about this blog post or other topics you would like me to write about, please email me. If you have questions about legislation impacting employee collective bargaining or other local government issues, please use our Ask MRSC form or call us at (206) 625-1300 or (800) 933-6772

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

Photo of Linda Gallagher

About Linda Gallagher

Linda Gallagher joined MRSC in 2017. She previously served as a Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for King County and as an Assistant Attorney General.

Linda’s municipal law experience includes risk management, torts, civil rights, transit, employment, workers compensation, eminent domain, vehicle licensing, law enforcement, corrections, and public health.

She graduated from the University of Washington School of Law.