OLYMPIA — Two bills aiming to strengthen Washington state’s democracy and address concerning ballot rejection rates were signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee. 

Sponsored by Sen. Javier Valdez (D-Seattle), Senate Bill 5890 and Senate Bill 6269 represent a significant step forward in improving voter access and inclusivity in the state’s electoral process. 

Senate Bill 5890 tackles the pressing issue of ballot rejections by mandating proactive measures to notify voters of unsigned ballots or signature mismatches. County auditors will now be required to promptly contact voters via phone, text, or email, providing them with an opportunity to correct any issues in a timely manner. This proactive approach aims to mitigate disparities revealed by recent reports, particularly affecting younger voters and communities of color. Additionally, it mandates the establishment of statewide standards for signature verification, ensuring consistency and fairness across all counties. The bill also establishes a work group to approve a uniform ballot envelope design for all counties, starting with the 2026 primary election. This standardization initiative aims to ensure a user-friendly approach to ballot submission, enhancing accessibility for all voters. 

The second bill, Senate Bill 6269, initiates the Alternative Verification Options Pilot Project, spearheaded by the Secretary of State’s office. This initiative allows counties to explore alternative methods beyond signature verification to confirm whether ballots were filled out by the intended voter. Participating counties will have the opportunity to implement innovative approaches during specified special elections, subject to approval and oversight. 

“These bills underscore our commitment to strengthening democracy and ensuring that every voter’s voice is heard,” Valdez said. “By addressing ballot rejection disparities and pioneering innovative verification methods, we are taking important steps to bolster voter access, inclusivity, and integrity in our state’s electoral process.” 

Both bills go into effect June 6, 2024.