While Republicans across the country are busy trying to suppress voting rights through gerrymandering, restrictive voter ID laws, claims of electoral fraud, and outright dirty tricks like disseminating false information and closing polling places, Washington State just scored a victory in the name of free and fair elections.
In a rare Saturday session, the Washington State Senate resoundingly passed legislation that provides for automatic voter registration for state citizens who register or renew their driver’s licenses or use other state services that require an ID.
While the legislation passed in a bi-partisan vote with nine Republicans joining all of the Democrats in supporting it, it was sponsored by Senator Sam Hunt (D-Olympia), and Washington Senate Democrats tweeted out his statement on the bill to celebrate its passage.
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Sen. Hunt: "Voting is a right, not a privilege. We need to make voting as easy as possible for every citizen in Washington and that starts with registration. We now have the technology to make it seamless, so why wouldn’t we?" #waleg pic.twitter.com/sb7cjsJOzj
— WA Senate Democrats (@WASenDemocrats) February 10, 2018
With voter registration in Washington having declined significantly in recent years, it is hoped that the simplicity of automatic voter registration will increase not just voter registration, but turnout as well. In 1972, Washington had 85.6% of its voting age population registered, but by 2016 it was down to 76.8%.
With Washington joining California and Oregon in automatically registering voters, the entire West coast of the U.S. now has advanced the cause of truly representational democracy in their states, as long as their citizens decide to exercise their rights.
Meanwhile, states in the South and Mid-West are heading in the opposite direction, enacting ever more restrictive voting laws under the pretense of stopping non-existent voter fraud, laws that make it more difficult for minorities and the impoverished to express their political views and helps the Republicans who control those state governments stay in office, albeit through a thoroughly flawed electoral process.
With the Trump administration doing everything it can to deny the Russian hacking of our states’ voting systems that has been confirmed by our intelligence agencies, we have enough trouble ensuring that our elections are free and fare. It’s good to know that at least one more state is committed to expanding the electorate to its full potential rather than trying to undermine the essence of democracy.