In 2006, Pew Research Center found that about 1-in-5 non-voters cited recent relocations for their failure to register. In 2014, about 21 percent of renters who lived in their home for less than one year registered to vote, compared with 41 percent of renters who stayed put for five.
That last stat comes from an ordinance proposed by city council member Kshama Sawant that would require all landlords provide new tenants information on registering to vote, including a voter registration form.
“Landlords are uniquely positioned because of the landlord-tenant relationship to provide voter registration information to tenants who have recently moved to Seattle or within Seattle,” Sawant’s ordinance states.
Sawant’s proposal would require the Department of Construction and Inspections to add the voter registration information to a packet of materials already given to tenants. You know, building codes, tenant’s rights and other information that a new resident might want to know. If her ordinance passes, tenants would be free to terminate a lease with written notice if their landlord fails to provide the voter registration information.
The plan seems noncontroversial enough, right? We’d be creating another method to encourage people to participate in the democratic process. Who doesn’t love democracy? And the city would be required to provide the new voter registration information in the packets, giving minimal if any extra work to landlords. Not so fast.
Here’s the Rental Housing Association of Washington (RHAWA), a landlord advocacy group, complaining about the horrifying prospect of helping new tenants register to vote:
Here’s the same group, for some reason, suggesting Sawant’s proposal puts landlords' humanity up for question:
Landlords are not professionals. They have jobs/families. It is "just a piece of paper" its important to remember that landlords are people.
— RHAWA (@RHAofWA) June 6, 2017
Sawant’s proposal builds on a slate of new tenant protections recently passed by the city council, including a law that requires landlords rent to the first qualified applicant and a rule allowing renters to pay move-in fees in installments. The RHAWA sued the city over the move-in fee law. Another group of landlords sued over the former.