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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Washington residents with felonies may soon automatically have voting rights restored, but not for 2021 general election

UPDATED: Fri., Sept. 10, 2021

Washington state Rep. Tarra Simmons, D-Bremerton, holds blank voter registration forms as she poses for a photo at her home Dec. 9 in Bremerton. Simmons was incarcerated herself before being released and becoming a lawyer. “Her success is what we want for all people who are completing their prison term,” Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, said during a floor debate on restoring voting rights for felons. “Let’s give that opportunity to others as well by restoring their voices and their right to vote.”  (Associated Press)
Washington state Rep. Tarra Simmons, D-Bremerton, holds blank voter registration forms as she poses for a photo at her home Dec. 9 in Bremerton. Simmons was incarcerated herself before being released and becoming a lawyer. “Her success is what we want for all people who are completing their prison term,” Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, said during a floor debate on restoring voting rights for felons. “Let’s give that opportunity to others as well by restoring their voices and their right to vote.” (Associated Press)

As of this election cycle, those convicted of a felony in Washington can have their voting rights restored upon completing community supervision with the Department of Corrections, but beginning in 2022, those rights will expand even further.

The Legislature passed a bill in 2021 that automatically restores the right to vote for those convicted of a felony, as long as they are not serving a sentence in total confinement. That means even those currently on parole or under some community custody will be able to vote. But that law doesn’t go into effect until Jan. 1, 2022.

For this November’s general election, those with felonies can have their voting rights restored upon completion of community custody. When their right is restored, either through a certificate of discharge, court order, final order of discharge or certificate of restoration, they can re-register to vote with the secretary of state’s office.

Registering can be done online at VoteWA.gov or mailing or turning in-person a form to their county elections department.

When the Legislature’s new law goes into effect in 2022, those with felonies will have their voting rights automatically restored upon release, as long as they are not serving a sentence in total confinement. Total confinement means 24-hour confinement inside a facility or institution operated by the Department of Corrections.

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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