WASHINGTON, D.C.—Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill on Wednesday that would restore voting rights for Washington state parolees as soon as they are released from prison. The bill would return the right to vote to over 20,000 citizens after it takes effect in 2022.
HB 1078 was championed by Rep. Tarra Simmons, herself a former felon who was elected to the state legislature last year. A Democrat, Simmons emphasized that the legislation was a civil rights issue and would go far to help formerly incarcerated Washingtonians re-integrate into society. Regaining her right to vote was a monumental moment for her, Simmons said: “This might seem a small thing to some people, but it’s a giant step for civil rights and it’s one that will give others what it gave me: a belief that I mattered, that I was once again a member of society, and that my freedom was worth preserving at all costs.”
Despite a Republican representative co-sponsoring the legislation in the House, Republican state senators opposed the bill. HB 1078 is one of many efforts to expand voting rights that Washington Democrats have championed over the last year, including allowing teenagers to pre-register to vote, establishing same-day Election Day registration, and introducing automatic voter registration through state agencies. The law will go into effect next year.