Bill forcing Washington residents to vote advances from committee

Senate Bill 5209, which would require Washington residents to vote in every major election, cleared the Senate State Government and Elections Committee on Tuesday, according to a media release from Washington Senator Jeff Wilson (R).

The bill will advance to the Senate Rules Committee, which is the last step before a vote on the full Senate floor.

Sponsors of the bill are Democratic Senators Sam Hunt, Andy Billig, Lisa Wellman, Bob Hasegawa, Liz Lovelett, Rebecca Saldaña, Marko Liias, Steve Conway, Manka Dhingra, Karen Keiser, Patty Kuderer, Joe Nguyen, Javier Valdez and Claire Wilson.

According to the text of the bill, it would require every eligible voter to either register to vote or obtain a waiver from the obligation to register to vote. However, the bill also says that “no excuse is required for a waiver.”

The bill also says that every registered voter must return a ballot for every primary and general election. However, voters may return a blank ballot, if they choose.

Washington Republicans oppose the deal. In a statement, Senator Wilson said, “It is anathema to the principles outlined in our constitution. We have the right to vote in this country, and that implies we have a choice. This bill takes that choice away from us. I can’t believe this is a serious proposal.”

The media release said that even if the bill passed, the federal Constitution may make it difficult to enforce since the U.S. Supreme Court voted in 1977 that freedom of speech includes the right not to speak (Wooley v. Maynard).