WA Voting Rights Act
Please visit wavotingrights.org for information on the Washington State Voting Rights Act of 2013
Washington State Voting Rights Act of 2012
In Washington State we believe in fairness and equal opportunity. These values form the foundation of any healthy democracy and deserve to be protected in an effort to ensure that our children and communities experience a democracy that embraces the principle of “One Person, One Vote.” Unfortunately, outdated electoral systems have not kept up with the changing demographics of our state or its ideals; instead, they have undercut equal opportunity at the polls and rigged the system. We need the Washington State Voting Rights Act (HB2612 | SB6381) to restore democracy and we need it now.
What is the Washington State Voting Rights Act?
The Washington State Voting Rights Act (WVRA) upholds a fundamental principle of our democracy—“One Person, One Vote.” The WVRA provides protected classes of voters in Washington State with the ability to challenge voting systems where it can be proved that at-large voting systems combined with “racially-polarized voting” have left particular communities with no voice in our democracy. If successful, the challenges would result in the creation of a district-based election system.
What is the problem the Washington State Voting Rights Act seeks to address?
Sometimes, numbers don’t lie. This is one of those times. The lack of representation for racial and ethnic minority voters in some areas of the state is staggering, and it is no surprise that this lack of representation corresponds with at-large voting systems. As an example, the combined Latino population for ten counties in Central and Eastern Washington exceeds 33% of the total population; yet Latinos hold only 4% of elected offices (78 out of 1,891; see fact sheet). In those counties, 92% of the election systems are at-large and only 1% are single-member districts. This lack of representation holds true in other areas of the state and in other ethnic and racial minority communities.
How do at-large voting systems disenfranchise voters?
In an at-large method of election, there are no neighborhood or local election districts in which only voters residing within the election district may vote for candidates who also reside in the election district. An at- large method of election, especially where districts are racially segregated, permits “racially-polarized” voting to have a disproportionate impact in determining the electoral success of candidates to county and city councils, school boards, and special election districts.
Have other states passed similar state voting rights acts?
In 2001, after encountering similar data, California passed the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA). The CVRA has been an unmitigated success in California, increasing the representation of racial and ethnic minority voters in local elected office and providing communities with a voice in democracy for the first time. Not surprisingly, this has corresponded with an increase in civic engagement, from voter registration rates to the number of voters participating in our democracy.
What about the Federal Voting Rights Act?
Unfortunately, the high costs and long waits associated with legal action in federal courts leave Federal Voting Rights Act challenges inaccessible to regular voters. The WVRA provides local remedies by allowing challenges in state court and, with this local control, quicker and less costly decisions.
For more information, please visit http://www.fairrepresentationwa.org/wvra or contact:
Cherry Cayabyab, Win Win Network and United for Fair Representation | P: 206.227.1948 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
David Perez, Seattle U Korematsu Center for Law & Equality | P: 206.398.4133 C: 206.618.4293 E: email@example.com
Toby Guevin, OneAmerica | P: 206.452.8416 C: 617.755.6207 E: firstname.lastname@example.org