On Dec. 15, a veritable kick ball team of Democratic state representatives (joined by two lonely Rs) introduced three concurrent house bills that, if passed, would allow 16-year-olds to pre-register to vote when obtaining their first driver's license and encourage greater voter turnout in general by allowing people to register to vote on election day.
Here's a quick breakdown of the bills and how they'd increase voter turnout:
·HB 2203 would expand our current "motor voter" opt-in system by turning it into an opt-out system—driver's license and state identicard applicants would automatically be registered to vote, unless they declined to do so in writing.
·HB 2204 would allow people to register in person up until 5:00 p.m. on election day, or eight days in advance of an election for online registration. (Currently, the cutoff period for registering to vote is 29 days before a primary, special, or general election if a person is registering online, or eight days if a person is registering in person at the county auditor's office.)
"In Washington we believe voting is for everyone, as opposed to places like Texas where they’re rolling back voter access," says Toby Crittenden, program director of youth voting advocacy group the Washington Bus, which worked closely to craft the bill's language with primary sponsor Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34, Squee).
·HB 2205 would extend the time frame to allow more teenagers to register to vote by allowing teens age 16 and up to pre-register when applying for a driver's license. (Currently, only teens within three months of their 18th birthday can register when obtaining or updating their driver's license.)
"The voter's registration will be held from entry in the statewide voter registration database until such time as the voter will be eighteen years of age and eligible to vote in the next election," the bill explains.
These progressive filings come mere days after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called on states to replace their “antiquated” voter registration systems by automatically registering all eligible voters, making the bills' sponsors cautiously optimistic about how they'll be received in Olympia. But one expected hurdle will be justifying the cost of implementing the measures, should they pass.
"Obviously, we're feeling pressure, budget wise, and I think that we’re going to have to make the case that this is a priority," says Fitzgibbon. "My point of view is that county auditors should be registering everyone who wants to. Of course that costs more. But if we have a line around the block on election day of people who want to registered to vote, that’s an undeniably good thing."