Legislation focused on streamlining the process and notification requirements to felons of their voting rights and the restoration of those rights was signed by Governor Jay Inslee on April 17.
Senate Bill 5207 was sponsored by Law and Justice Commission Vice Chairwoman Senator Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond.
The legislation does not change current felon voting rights, but “makes sure that a current law actually is implemented in the manner that we all wanted it to be implemented when felons get their voter rights back,” said Dhingra in her Feb. 25 floor speech.
It’s not enough to simply notify individuals that their voting rights are restored, Dhingra said, noting her measure will give them the voter registration form and instructions on how to become a registered voter.
Individuals convicted of a felony can already have their voting rights provisionally restored after completing their sentence. Provisional rights can be revoked if an individual cannot comply with legal financial obligations.
The state Department of Corrections is required to develop individualized re-entry plans after the completion of felons’ sentences. The American Civil Liberties Union voting guide will be included with release paperwork.
Under this new law, the department must notify inmates of the process to receive provisional and permanent restoration of voting rights as a part of their release paperwork. Individuals will also be provided with a voter registration form and information regarding registering to vote, both in person and electronically.
The bill passed the Senate, 37-12, on Feb. 25. It passed the House, 76-21, on April 9. The opposing votes were all cast by Republicans.
The law will go into effect 90 days after the legislative session adjourns.
The session is scheduled to end April 28.