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March 27, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Senate panel should pass the Washington Voting Rights Act
Well, this is disappointing.
A Senate panel heard testimony Tuesday on the Washington Voting Rights Act, but already the panel’s leader says HB 1413 — which passed the House without a single Republican vote — doesn’t stand much of a chance of getting out of her committee.
From Tuesday’s news story by Associated Press reporter Jonathan Kaminsky:
The Washington Voting Rights Act, as supporters call it, would encourage court challenges to cities, counties, school districts and others to push them to switch from at-large to district elections in areas where large minority groups are present.
Sen. Pam Roach, chairwoman of the Senate Governmental Operations Committee, said it was not likely the bill would advance from her panel.
“It’s a long reach,” she said, noting that her committee consists of four Republicans and three Democrats. “These haven’t traditionally been Republican issues.”
C’mon, Sen. Roach. Let’s not make this a party issue. Focus on what’s fair to those Washington residents who’ve not traditionally had a voice in Olympia.
Again, the Senate Government Operations Committee is made up of four Republicans and three Democrats. Hard to believe one vote could kill this bill. This shouldn’t be an issue championed only by Democrats. Members of minority groups are Republicans, too. It’s in the interest of both parties to level the election playing field.
In February, The Seattle Times editorialized in support of HB 1413:
Washington’s voting history shows a pattern of lopsided outcomes because the vast majority of local elections are for at-large positions — meaning citizens vote citywide instead of for their specific neighborhood or section.
As a result, minority candidates often have a hard time getting elected.
Though Latinos make up more than 33 percent of the population in 10 counties across Central Washington, they hold less than 4 percent of local elected offices in those areas…
Reforms might be inconvenient, but they are necessary.
Earlier this month, The Herald also came out in support of the bill:
The impetus is straightforward: Washington’s political class doesn’t mirror the state’s evolving demographics.
Want to see the Washington Voting Rights Act pass? Then write your legislator. Here’s a link to their contact information.
Watch the public hearing at this link, courtesy of TVW.