Inslee signs package of voter access bills into law, including automatic registration

OLYMPIA, Wash.  — Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday signed a package of bills aimed at increasing voter access in Washington state, including a measure to pre-register 16 and 17 year olds and another that allows in-person voter registration to occur the same day of an election.

Under one of the measures signed Monday, starting on July 1, 2019, people can pre-register to vote starting at age 16, though they won’t be added to the list of registered voters until the next election at which they’ll be 18.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Washington will join 12 states and the District of Columbia in allowing preregistration beginning at age 16. Four other states allow preregistration beginning at age 17, and additional five states have varying rules for when a person may preregister when they near age 18.

Automatic Voter Registration

This bill provides automatic voter registration when citizens obtain enhanced driver’s licenses or identification cards through the Department of Licensing.   Other state agencies that require citizenship will be able to provide automatic voter registration after they assess their capability and receive the governor’s approval.

“If one of our residents is already providing proof of citizenship as part of a transaction with the state, along with the other requirements, why wouldn’t we register that person to vote?” Secretary of State Kim Wyman asked.

Same-Day Voter Registration

Supporters of this measure say same-day voter registration could increase voter turnout in the state by up to 10 percent. This bill will ensure every eligible voter in Washington state can register and vote in person on Election Day. They’ll also be able to register electronically or by mail up to eight days before Election Day.

Pre-Registration for 16 and 17 year olds

Supporters say the aim of this bill is to get people civically engaged early as 16 and 17 year olds, making them more likely to vote once they turn 18.

The DISCLOSE Act

The DISCLOSE Act is a nation-leading transparency effort to ensure campaign finance disclosure by nonprofits that participate in elections. Until now, political action committees must disclose their donors but other nonprofits have been exempt. Supporters of this measure say the result has been a significant increase in campaign dark money flowing through these non-profit groups.