Washington state lawmaker introduces bill to expand voting in jails

A new bill in Washington would make voting easier for some people in the state's jail system.
Published: Jan. 12, 2023 at 7:07 AM PST
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OLYMPIA, Wash. (KPTV) - A new bill in Washington would make voting easier for some people in the state’s jail system.

Last year, the state restored voting rights to people released from prison thanks to a bill introduced by Washington State Representative Tarra Simmons. More than a decade ago, Simmons served time in prison for a drug charge. Since then, she became a lawyer, then an elected official, and she’s behind a new push to expand voting for people in jails.

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Simmons argues the majority of people in county jails have not yet been convicted of crimes, but many are denied their right to vote because they’re locked up during the time of an election.

The new bill would require jails to provide inmates with voter registration information as well as access to a ballot at least 18 days before an election.

Under the legislation, each county auditor’s office would also have to designate a jail voting coordinator. They would work with jails and the secretary of state to create a voting plan to each jail. Jails would also have to allow election officials to enter the jail at least 30 days before each election for voter outreach and education.

On top of all that, jails would be required to document all voting-related requests and complaints, and they would have to collect data on voter registration and ballot returns.

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Lawmakers in a House committee will consider the bill Friday morning.