Washington Poised to Become Next State with Automatic Voter Registration

March 7, 2018

House and Senate Pass Reform, Governor Expected to Sign

Olympia, WA - Washington is set to become the latest state to automatically register citizens to vote at state agencies. The State House and Senate agreed on language and passed the legislation today.

Automatic voter registration is a bipartisan approach to registering eligible voters that saves money, increases the accuracy of voter rolls, and boosts voter participation. The bill now goes to Gov. Jay Inslee, who is expected to sign it. When signed, Washington will join nine other states and Washington, D.C., that have approved automatic voter registration.

Under the bill, Washingtonians who apply for or renew an enhanced driver’s license at the Department of Licensing will automatically be registered to vote unless they decline. The bill also requires public assistance agencies to move toward automatic voter registration, and for the state’s health benefit exchange to implement electronic voter registration.

“A strong government is built on access to democracy, and the right to vote is the key,” said State Sen. Sam Hunt, lead Senate sponsor. “Automatic voter registration is one of the major steps Washington is taking to provide the most progressive, secure voter registration and election system in the country.”

“I really do believe we get better government when we have better participation,” said State Rep. Zack Hudgins, lead House sponsor. “Automatic Voter Registration is one step towards more participation and I am happy we are heading for passage in Washington State.”

“The passage of Washington’s Automatic Voter Registration bill is a positive step forward for our state’s elections, as it improves both public access and security in the registration process,” said Secretary of State Kim Wyman. “If a Washington State resident is providing proof of citizenship as part of a transaction with the state, why wouldn’t we register them to vote?”

The Washington bill is part of the state’s Access to Democracy legislative package, which includes critical voting reforms like same day registration, as well as pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds. The initiative had widespread support and assistance from groups in the Washington Voting Justice Coalition — including the Washington State Labor Council, Win/Win Network, One America, Fuse Washington, and The Washington Bus — along with the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. 

“Automatic voter registration is a practical, common-sense approach that makes government more efficient and keeps the voter rolls clean and secure,” said Natalie E. Tennant, Manager for State Advocacy at the Brennan Center. “Washington has taken a major leap forward in strengthening its democracy.”

Read more about automatic voter registration here.

To interview State Sen. Sam Hunt, contact Sharlett Mena at sharlett.mena@leg.wa.gov or 360-786-7013. To interview State Rep. Zack Hudgins, contact Jamie Nixon at Jamie.Nixon@leg.wa.gov or 360-786-7202. To interview Secretary of State Kim Wyman, contact Erich Ebel at erich.ebel@sos.wa.gov or 360-902-4140. And to interview a Brennan Center expert, contact Rebecca Autrey at rebecca.autrey@nyu.edu or 646-292-8316.