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Democrats propose voting rights law

Local legislators say this ploy is nothing new

— Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, D-Seattle, introduced a Washington Voting Rights Act to the state Senate on Wednesday.

She said it is designed to help cities, counties, school boards and other local elected bodies voluntarily adopt changes to their election system that will improve representation in local elections.

“This bill is a significant step in the ongoing effort to remove barriers and expand access to our democracy, particularly for disenfranchised populations,” she said.

“Like we’ve seen in Yakima and Pasco in recent years, having community members participate in drawing districts is the best way to ensure they have the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. WVRA will create the most effective process for voters in the nation to ensure a collaborative and less costly process for fair and equitable local elections.”

Rep. Mia Gregerson, D-SeaTac, the prime sponsor of the House of Representatives’ version of the bill, said: “This is our opportunity to ensure that as a state institution we are doing everything to level the playing field and create an environment where everyone is represented.”

Sunnyside Senator Jim Honeyford, a Republican, has read the bill and says it’s the same that’s been offered before.

“I have some problems with it,” he said.

One of those problems he said is the ability of local groups to sue in superior court over election issues. He also doesn’t like the state involving itself in what people can do at the local level.

Granger State Representative Bruce Chandler said the proponents of the act are trying to create elections that are decided by race or ethnicity.

“I don’t think people are going to like it once they really see it,” Chandler said.

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