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Eye On Olympia

Posts tagged: Voting

House votes to make Pierce County — like the rest of the state — vote by mail…

With 38 of Washington’s 39 counties voting almost entirely by mail, Washington’s House of Representatives voted tonight to make it 39.

The House passed HB 1572, to make Pierce County vote by mail as well.

It’s an emotional issue, with proponents saying that it’s expensive and complicated for the county to run poll- and mail voting at the same time. Several local lawmakers, however, argued that poll voting is a hallowed tradition.

“This is absolutely wrong,” Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Roy, said of bill. “…When the people want the right to decide for themselves, let them decide for themselves.”

“I’ve heard all the arguments about how this is a family affair and people like to go to the polls,” said Rep. Sherry Appleton. But mail voting gives people time to look at the voters’ guides, candidate websites and other information to make an informed, deliberative decision, she said.

Longtime poll voter Rep. Dennis Flannigan, D-Tacoma, decided to support the bill in the name of saving money. Until now, “I’ve been a fierce defender of standing in line for 2 1/2 hours” at the polls, he said.

Rep. Jim McCune, R-Graham, said the state telling local people how to vote “is just wrong. It’s not American. It’s just wrong.”

“It’s nothing that’s going to affect you, so if you could just leave this alone, we would appreciate it,” added Rep. Dan Roach, R-Bonney Lake.

And Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, drew a guffaw by saying that House Republicans were adamantly opposed to all-mail voting: “Our side of the aisle believes very strongly that females should be allowed to vote also,” he said.

The bill passed 54-43.

Darneille takes another run at broadening felons’ rights to vote upon release from prison…

Two years ago, the state Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that even after felons are released from prison, the state can bar them from voting until they pay off all their court-ordered fines and fees.

For poor people with big bills and few options for employment, this can effectively mean a lifetime loss of the right to vote.

State Rep. Jeannie Darneille wants to change the law. Getting out of prison and off probation, she says, should be enough to restore a person’s right to vote.

“It’s not real freedom if you’re excluded from any say in decisions that govern your life,” she said in a press reelase. “Basing anyone’s voting right on how quickly they can pay a financial debt is unfair and un-American.”

The bill is HB 1517.

Darneille, a Tacoma Democrat, has pushed similar bills for the past eight years. But her colleagues were reluctant to endorse earlier plans that would have allowed voting by people still on probation. Among those backing the new version: Secretary of State Sam Reed, a Republican.

In July 2007, the state’s high court upheld the law banning voting until felons have completed all the terms of their sentences, including payments.

“Convicted felons…no longer possess that fundamental right as a direct result of their decisions to commit a felony,” wrote Justice Mary Fairhurst. In a dissent, Justice Tom Chambers blasted the law, saying it restricts voting “to those rich enough to buy it.”

Fellow dissenter Gerry Alexander, the state’s longtime chief justice, said it’s wrong to require people who’ve served their time to “pay to play” and vote.

Among the plaintiffs in that case: Beverly DuBois, convicted in Stevens County of growing and delivering marijuana in 2002.

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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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