Washington Governor Signs Three Elections Bills

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed three election-related bills into law last week that make it easier for people to vote and for officials to verify election results. 

Two of the bills were introduced at the request of Secretary of State Steve Hobbs (D) and will expand the ease of certifying elections and maintaining voter registration information in the Evergreen State. 

One of those bills, Senate Bill 5843, authorizes the secretary of state to certify election results in any given county if that particular county’s canvassing board refuses to do so without a reason. S.B. 5843 also adds security measures specifically aimed at countering cyber hacking of election materials and setting penalties for election interference. The second bill, House Bill 1962, removes a state requirement that any voter who moves within the state must re-register to vote. 

Two other bills passed by the Legislature at Hobbs’ request — one that makes harassing election workers a felony and another that expands voter eligibility — are still awaiting Inslee’s signature. Hobbs said in a statement that the four bills passed by the Legislature at his request “will go a long way toward reducing barriers to voter registration, enhancing election security, and supporting libraries and other key services.”

The other bill signed by Inslee last week, Senate Bill 6269, empowers the secretary of state to start a pilot program for counties to test new options for signature verification on ballots. Signature verification on ballots — whereby election officials crosscheck a voter’s ballot signature with their voter registration signature —  is known to be “notoriously and error-prone,” according to the nonpartisan voting rights nonprofit Campaign Legal Center. This new law allows for the secretary of state to let counties develop their own methods for verifying the signature of any given ballot. 

In 2021, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the Latino Community Fund sued members of the canvassing review boards in three Washington counties, arguing that there’s no standard for ballot reviewers in determining when the handwriting on a ballot matches the handwriting in voter registration records. In October of 2023, both parties reached a settlement, agreeing that each county must conduct a mandatory signature verification training for election staff. 

Read Senate Bill 5843 here.

Read Senate Bill 6269 here.

Read House Bill 1962 here.