Washington State Enacts Laws Simplifying Voter Registration

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Monday, May 15, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed Senate Bill 5112 into law, improving the state’s automatic voter registration. The enactment of S.B. 5112 comes on the heels of another measure that will make it easier for Washingtonians to register to vote online.

Washington has offered automatic voter registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Health Benefit Exchange since 2018, a policy that 21 other states have also enacted. S.B. 5112 expands the number of state agencies that offer automatic voter registration: Individuals will be automatically registered to vote when they interact with any state agency that requires them to show proof of U.S. citizenship.

Additionally, S.B. 5112 shifts the timeline for opting out of automatic registration. Currently, voters are presented with the option to opt out at the time of transaction with the state agency. Under S.B. 5112, state agencies register qualified voters and instead mail them an “automatic voter registration acknowledgment notice package” after the fact.

The second law that will streamline voter registration, Senate Bill 5208, was signed by Inslee earlier in May. S.B. 5208 allows voters to register to vote online using the last four digits of their Social Security number; previously, only people with a driver’s license or state-issued identification could take advantage of online voter registration. For voters registering with a Social Security number, the applicant must submit an image of their signature. 

Over the past decade, 42 states and Washington, D.C. have enacted online voter registration. However, in all but a handful of states (Delaware, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Vermont), voters need a driver’s license to register online. Now, Washington State joins that short list of states making online voter registration accessible to all prospective voters.

Read S.B. 5112 here.

Read S.B. 5208 here.