The Monroe Correctional Complex on April 9, 2020. (Sound Publishing file photo)

The Monroe Correctional Complex on April 9, 2020. (Sound Publishing file photo)

Formerly incarcerated people regain right to vote in Washington

Rights restored immediately upon release.

By Sydney Brown, WNPA News Service

Formerly incarcerated people will immediately regain the right to vote after Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law this automatic right, marking passage for one of the first criminal justice reform bills this session.

“The right to vote we know is a key component to a successful re-entry into society following incarceration,” Inslee said as he signed House Bill 1078 on April 7.

“This might seem a small thing to some people, but it’s a giant step for civil rights,” Rep. Tarra Simmons, D-Bremerton, said in a statement as the bill’s primary sponsor. Simmons advocated for the bill as a formerly incarcerated person herself.

Washington joins 19 other states in immediate restoration of voting rights after completing a prison sentence, according to 2020 data from The Sentencing Project. This law will restore the right for more than 45,000 disenfranchised people in the state, according to data on Washington State from The Sentencing Project.

Nationally, Maine and Vermont remain the only two states to allow those still in prison to vote and have no voting restrictions based on felony convictions. Eleven states still deny the vote to anyone who was in the prison system, even after they finish confinement and parole.

“While there were states restricting the right to vote, I’m glad that in Washington, here we’re expanding our access to democracy,” Inslee said.

The bill did not have much bipartisan support, with some Republican lawmakers saying people convicted of felonies should finish their entire sentence before the right to vote is restored.

“It should be restored, absolutely. But it should be restored after 100% of their fine or debt to their society is paid,” Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, told the Senate during its floor vote March 24.

Also in criminal justice reform, Inslee signed a bill to change the arbitrator selection process when a law enforcement officer faces disciplinary action.

SB 5055 creates a rotating pool of qualified and independent arbitrators from which the Public Relations Employment Commission can choose. The law also requires agencies to collect data on disciplinary action hearings.

“This bill improves the approach we use when a law enforcement officer faces a disciplinary action,” Inslee said.

A study on police arbitration found that 46% of the time, the arbitrators would force agencies to rehire officers even if a disciplinary hearing found they had engaged in misconduct on the job.

Sen. Joe Nguyen, D-West Seattle, the bill’s primary sponsor, said in a statement the bill took another step toward more transparent law enforcement.

“It may not be a silver bullet to fixing our criminal justice and policing systems, but this is a massive step toward comprehensive reform and a fairer process,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen’s bill garnered some support from Republicans as it passed the House in a 60-38 vote March 24. Some who opposed it said certain parts of the bill would actually increase bias in the arbitrator process.

“The intent of the bill is to avoid those, so I would have preferred to see more of an open slate for the arbitrator pool that we develop,” Rep. Larry Hoff, R-Vancouver, said during the debate.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@issaquahreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.issaquahreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

file photo
Housing and finance insiders call for subsidized housing families can own, instead of rent

Advocates say increasing homeownership will strengthen the community, build intergenerational wealth

Screenshot taken from Rosa Parks Elementary School website.
Eastside school wins National Blue Ribbon honor

Rosa Parks Elementary School in Redmond is the only Washington school to win.

Screenshot taken of a King County video showing Wilburton Trestle
King County’s Eastside to receive major multi-modal transportation investment

Private and public investors will help build a regional biking and walking trail to mitigate traffic

Co-owners Sarah Cassidy and Luke Woodward stand in front of The Grange (photo by Cameron Sheppard)
Co-owners Sarah Cassidy and Luke Woodward stand in front of The Grange (photo by Cameron Sheppard)
How a King County restaurant and farm work together to make a true farm-to-table experience

The Grange prepares sustainably produced meals pulled from the soil of the Snoqualmie Valley.

NW Carpenters Union members strike in front of downtown Bellevue construction site (photo by Cameron Sheppard)
Carpenters union strike interupts some prominent Eastside construction projects

Union representative says members are prepared to strike “as long as it takes.”

Map of proposed landfill expansion sites (screenshot from King County website)
Waste management expert knocks county’s plan to expand landfill

The waste management advocate said the decision to expand seems pre-determined despite assessment.

Participants in fundraiser previous event (courtesy of Alzheimer’s Association Washington State Chapter)
Walk To End Alzheimer’s returns to Eastside on Sept. 25

Alzheimer’s Association moves forward with plans for an in-person event.

Pixabay photo
Union carpenters to go on strike, expected to impact Eastside Microsoft projects

Members authorized strike after rejecting AGC offer for the fourth time.

Most Read