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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Editorial: Secretary of state right to ease voter registration

The following are abridged versions of Northwest editorials. They do not necessarily reflect the view of The Spokesman-Review’s editorial board.

The Columbian (Vancouver), March 9

Kim Wyman often finds herself being stretched in opposite directions. “If I’m in a Republican-leaning room, I’m hit over the head with, ‘How are we providing registering without checking citizenship?’ ” Washington’s secretary of state said of the process for voter registration. And in a room full of Democrats? Then the suggestion is that the state should make it easier for residents to register and to vote.

But that didn’t stop Wyman from pushing a couple ideas in this year’s legislative session – including House Bill 2682, which passed the House by a 55-42 vote but has gained no traction in the Senate.

The bill would automatically register people to vote if they have, or apply for, an enhanced driver’s license or a commercial driver’s license. Those who receive social services that verify citizenship or receive health insurance through the state health exchange also would be automatically registered. Unlike a standard Washington driver’s license, those items require strict identification, which is the common sticking point regarding the national debate over voter registration.

For many pundits, that represents an invitation for voter fraud, and that concern should not be dismissed. Certainly, protections against phony registrations are essential for ensuring public confidence in the election system.

But opposition to increasing voter rolls is difficult to justify. As Paul Gronke, a political science professor at Reed College in Portland, told the Washington Post: “Voter registration was put in place in the U.S. in the 1870s and 1880s – and the historical record is very clear – first to hold out Catholics, southern European immigrants and to push African Americans off the rolls.”

That runs counter to the notion of democracy. For any resident who can prove citizenship, registering to vote should be cleared of any roadblocks.

Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, March 8

Gov. Jay Inslee made a wise decision in asking Dick Morgan – a current Walla Walla City Council member and former Washington State Penitentiary superintendent – to come out of retirement to take the helm at the troubled state Department of Corrections.

Morgan, who spent 34 years in corrections starting as an officer at the penitentiary in 1976, has a keen understanding and perspective of prisons in the state. He’s well respected in the corrections industry and is a thoughtful leader.

Morgan is the right guy to put the DOC back on course. The department has been under fire because a software coding error that affected sentencing calculations for about 3,000 prisoners went unnoticed at the agency for a decade and then went unfixed for an additional three years. This led to Corrections Secretary Dan Pacholke resigning last month.

Morgan retired in 2010 as the director of the DOC’s Division of Prisons. Morgan also served as assistant deputy secretary for the DOC. His skills are needed by Washington state.