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Washington State Election Law Bills

Published on January 16, 2011, by in General.

Several interesting Washington state election bills have already been introduced in the 2011 session. An earlier blog post already mentioned SB 5119, to eliminate the presidential primary in 2012.

Secretary of State Sam Reed is backing bills in each house to move the primary so that it is two weeks earlier. The new primary date would be the first Tuesday in August. These bills are HB 1080 and SB SB 5171. They have the somewhat indirect title of “Facilitating voting for service and overseas voters” instead of a more straightforward title such as “Moving the date of the primary.” The bills would require all candidates for Congress and state office to file no later than mid-May. One of the disadvantages of Washington’s top-two system is that it is impossible for anyone to get on the November ballot (unless the person is a write-in candidate who places first or second in the primary) if that person did not file in the first half of the year, and this bill makes that problem worse. Before 1977, it was possible for minor party and independent candidates in Washington state to get on the November ballot by filing in mid-September.

Bills to make County Auditor elections non-partisan are SB 5081 and HB 1143. In Washington, County Auditors administer elections. The chief sponsors of these bills are Senator Craig Pridemore (D-Vancounver), chair of the Senate Committee that handles election law bills, and Representative Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo), a member of the House Committee that handles election law bills.

Bills have been introduced in each house to cancel the primary for any partisan office, if only two (or fewer) candidates file to appear on the primary ballot. They are SB 5153, by Senator Sharon Nelson (D-Vashon) and HB 1142, by Representative Sherry Appleton.

Representative Hans Dunshee (D-Snohomish) has filed HB 1092, to provide for single-member districts for State House elections. Currently, each legislative district elects two members of the House and one State Senator. The bill would provide for cutting each legislative district into two equal population separate districts.

Representative Mike Armstrong (R-Wenatchee) and 27 other Representatives have introduced HB 1030, which would require ex-felons to pay court-ordered financial obligations before they are allowed to register to vote. It is not clear why this bill has been introduced, because it seems that this is already state policy, a policy that the State Supreme Court upheld in 2007 in Madison v State.

10 Responses

  1. Demo Rep

    RE: the 2 reps per LD —

    = MORE ANTI-Democracy gerrymander districts.

    P.R. and App.V. — ANY body on this list also on the WA Grange list ???

  2. I believe that HB 1517, passed in 2009, eliminated the requirement that ex-felons must pay off court-ordered obligations before being able to vote again. Such requirements may (or may not) be valid under the Washington State Constitution, but they clearly violate the 24th Amendment.

  3. Jim Riley

    One of the advantages of Top 2 is that it does away with the equal protection concerns where some candidates can file in September and others must file much earlier, and where there are different qualification standards.

  4. Jim Riley

    #2 A fine is not a tax.

  5. With HB 1092, splitting State House seats into single districts could be better in some cases. Instead of these one party districts, there could say, be a Democratic senator, and have the House delegation split between a Democrat and Republican. (Or vice versa with the senator.) This would likely force the delegation to work together on certain issues and create a more bi-partisan atmosphere.

    That’s good but how far this scenario reaches across the state depends on how many competitive districts are drawn up by the commission this year.

    Cumulative Voting (CV) could work better to achieve what I said in the first paragraph above. Candidates would need 34% of the vote to win that one seat. In addition, “…CV elections may be more competitive, campaigns may be subtly more active, and turnout may be higher under CV than under majoritarian rules (including districting*).” (1)

    Ordinal systems are candidate-based and CV should accommodate “prefers party” on ballots. And don’t forget there’s things like “prefers” LOWER TAXES or whatever message the candidate wants to send to voters.

    It seems that creating 2 seat CV would need a simple statute. Alas, this is our dear old Washington State. Bring up ordinal voting systems and you’ll likely get visceral, uninformed reactions couched in musty nostalgia.

    (1) Electoral Reform & Minority Representation – Local Experiments with Alternative Elections – Shawn Bowler, Todd Donovan, and David Brockington. 2003 Ohio State University Press

    * The authors refer to race-concious districting.

  6. Jim Riley

    #5 Washington could reduce the number of senators to 33, and increase the number of representatives to 99.

  7. Demo Rep

    # 6 The smaller a legislative body = MORE EVIL party hack oligarchs.

    See the ROT in many cities due to the few members on city councils.

    Prime example — Detroit city council — 9 at large showboat MORONS with a mayor-monarch-dictator city charter.

    Result — Detroit may be THE first *major* city to be totally abandoned in about 40 years or less.

    Some noises at the moment about amending the charter.


    On the other extreme — the MOB scenes – 435 U.S.A. House of Reps, 400 NH House of Reps, 650 U.K. House of Commons, etc.

    (how many binocs needed to see who is talking at any moment ???)

  8. Don’t forget about the Parliament in the Star Wars movies, which had so many seats and so many memmbers that the members had to use personal flying devices to get to their seats. On the planet of Coruscan, I think.

  9. Demo Rep

    # 8 How much time did each member of the MOB scene Parliament in Star Wars get to debate about anything ???

    One or less seconds per century ??? — thus the Star Wars heroes had to wipe out the evil Empire by themselves.

  10. Demo Rep

    Another MOB scene –

    a mere 758 members in the European Union Parliament — with likely more if more regimes join the EU.

    How many members in the early post 1789 French Revolution regime — before the heads started being chopped off ???

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