OLYMPIASenator Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle) dropped a bill today that would require certain counties, cities and towns to secure prior approval for proposed changes in electoral practices that would dilute the voting power of racial and/or ethnic groups. Senate Bill 6688 would require jurisdictions with a large population from a single racial, ethnic, or language minority group to submit the changes to either the State Attorney General or a Superior Court for approval before implementing them.  The bill also gives affected voters the right to appeal in the case that the Attorney General does not object to the change. The 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder rendered unenforceable federal “pre-clearance,” a critical tool to prevent state and local governments from voting restrictions that disproportionately impact underrepresented groups. Pre-clearance ensured that these practices received impartial review before being allowed to go into effect. Currently, such practices can be stopped only by litigation, which lasts years and allows new laws affecting entire communities to be passed in the meantime by elected officials who were elected on the basis of those practices. The City of Yakima has struggled with such issues for years after being sued by the ACLU in 2012. That city continues to be embroiled in debate about changes to its governmental structure that would dilute the voting power of ethnic minorities. “In the last few years, we have made great progress on protecting the voting rights of the people of Washington state,” said Saldaña.  “Practices that weaken the voting rights of our communities of color must not be allowed to stand for years while litigation is underway. Empowerment through the right to vote cannot wait.”


For interviews & information: Nicole Herrera, Senate Democratic Communications, 360-786-7050