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Moscoso introduces Washington Voting Rights Act

Rep. Luis Moscoso - contributed photo
Rep. Luis Moscoso
— image credit: contributed photo

The newly introduced Washington Voting Rights Act (WVRA), a measure to ensure all communities in Washington have a fair chance to elect candidates of their choice in local elections, will get a public hearing next Wednesday.

“A democracy is government by and for the people, and that means every citizen’s vote must count. How else can you guarantee accountability in government? That’s why we need election systems that provide all communities a fair chance to be represented in local governments throughout our state,” said Rep. Luis Moscoso, the bill’s prime sponsor.

The problem the WVRA will solve is polarized voting that denies voters an equal opportunity to influence elections. Currently, at-large elections occur where candidates run citywide or across an entire school district, and so can then exclude many voters from having a meaningful voice in local elections. If areas were broken up into smaller districts, the people elected would more accurately and more fairly represent their communities.

“When entire neighborhoods are left without a voice, the result is a lack of accountability at the local level. What it boils down to is streetlights that may not get fixed, roads and sidewalks that may not get adequate maintenance, and other public safety matters that are critical to the well-being of the families living in those neighborhoods. The Washington Voting Rights Act in House Bill 1413 is a very sensible solution to this problem,” Moscoso said.

The Mountlake Terrace Democrat, who serves Bothell as part of the 1st District, noted that the WVRA does not affect or have an impact on state-legislative elections since the state is already divided into 49 legislative districts that are distributed as fairly and proportionately as possible all across Washington.

“But what if these state-legislative elections were carried out at-large?” Moscoso asked. “You could then actually end up with a representative from clear across the state! How would this elected person know what the pressing issues are in your town? How could this new officeholder honestly represent you in the Legislature if he or she doesn’t even live in your area?”

The intent of the WVRA is to provide fair representation to every voter in the state and thus ensure that people in every community have a say on matters that are important to them.

If polarized voting is found in local elections, the WVRA gives local governments opportunities to change their electoral system. If they do not comply, they could be subject to appropriate remedies in court.

Counties, cities, school districts, port districts, public utility districts and fire districts are covered under the WVRA. However, cities of less than 1,000 and school districts of less than 250 students are exempt.

“My bill does not mandate any particular voting system and it does not require that candidates of any particular color or ethnicity get elected. Instead, it lets local governments solve the problem of voter exclusion in whatever way works for them. It gives every Washingtonian an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice so that everyone has fair representation,” Moscoso added.

 

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