OLYMPIA — The Washington Voting Rights Act, legislation intended to address underrepresentation of minority groups in local elections, passed out of the House Government Operations and Elections Committee Tuesday.
The vote split along party lines, WITH six Democrats in favor and five Republicans opposed.
House Bill 1413, known as the Washington Voting Rights Act, is created to prohibit unfair elections in which members of a protected class (members of a racial, ethnic or language minority) are unable to influence an election and/or receive adequate representation in local political subdivisions.
This phenomenon — called polarized voting — where there is a disparity between the candidate chosen by voters of a protected class and by those of the remainder of the electorate, can be prevented by political subdivisions changing from at-large to district-based elections.
If polarized voting is found in districts with at-large elections and those districts choose to not transition to district-based elections, members of protected classes may sue in order to remedy the issue.
Amendments were offered by Republicans to limit the opportunities for litigation and to exempt school districts with 5,000 or fewer full-time enrolled students from the bill. An amendment was also proposed to prevent judges from appointing those who are either convicted felons or affiliated with parties in the lawsuit to manage the redistricting of at-large districts. All amendments failed.
Kylee Zabel is a reporter with the WNPA Olympia News Bureau.