BY A FOURTH CORNER CONTRIBUTOR
SB 5856 Voter Registration Challenges
February 1st 2024
Good morning. I wanted to update you on SB 5856, which passed off the Senate Floor yesterday. I have learned more about the laws surrounding this issue over the past week than I have known in my 65 years. I also know that there are some people who do not understand those laws and who do not understand the value of SB 5856. Does it make everything perfect? No. Does it make things better for having clean voter rolls? Yes. Here are some things it does.
1.It establishes voter registration in another state as a basis for a voter eligibility challenge. Senator John Braun added an amendment that would require the county auditor to search the voter registration of the address given in the challenge and remove the voter if the registration is more recent than the WA state registration. It would not be optional.
Note: Washington State law allows someone to live in another state – they could live there 364 days of the year – but still live in WA state. It’s their choice to be registered here or in another jurisdiction. I think that is wrong, but this bill doesn’t address that portion of law at all. And a bill changing that would never pass with the make-up we have in the current legislature.
2. It requires use of a form provided by the Secretary of State to be used in challenges to give everyone a uniform way to challenge based on residence.
3. Specifies that inactive voters are not subject to a voter eligibility challenge. This has caused a great deal of angst amongst my friends. However, the “inactive voter” laws are federal. State law can’t change those requirements. But the bottom line is that the inactive voter does not get a ballot, and after two federal election cycles, they are removed from the rolls.
A. There are two ways to become an inactive voter. 1. When the ballot comes back as undeliverable 2. If the auditor sends a snail mail letter to the new address of someone who has moved to another jurisdiction, asking if they want to be removed from the WA voter rolls, and the auditor receives no answer to that letter. This is the group of people that these rules apply to.
B. Again, is this a perfect process? No. A voter can just call up and say they want to get a ballot without proof of who they are. This doesn’t happen a great deal, and I think it should be changed to require proof of identity, but again, this is a federal law and must be changed by Congress.
4. Authorizes a county auditor to designate someone else to oversee the voter challenges. In recent years, Republicans have done a fabulous job of challenging voter registrations that are incorrect or downright fraudulent. This has increased the number of challenges dramatically. The auditors are now allowed to have someone else help with this process.
5. This bill also requires the county auditors to try to resolve the voter challenge before a hearing. It is no longer optional.
6. There would also be a definite timeline of ten days to get the challenge investigated.
SB 5856 had input from some of our best Republican Auditors. While it doesn’t make the process perfect, it makes it much more efficient and will help us in our effort to make sure every vote is a valid one. There are more changes that need to be made, but to do so, Republicans must have a greater majority.