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February 3, 2012

Endorsements Pile Up for WA State Voting Rights Act

Two candidates for statewide office in Washington endorsed the Washington State Voting Rights Act this week, adding further momentum to a bill that seeks to bring fairness and equal opportunity to our electoral process. Gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee and Bob Ferguson, who is running for state Attorney General, announced their strong support for the Voting Rights Act. Rep. Adam Smith was the first elected official out of the gate to endorse the Voting Rights Act when it was introduced in January and to actively reach out to legislators in support of the Act.

The Voting Rights Act aims to deal with the staggering lack of representation for racial and ethnic minority voters in some areas of the state. The bill would provide voters the ability to challenge at-large voting systems when they can prove “racially-polarized voting” exists. In its endorsement of the Voting Rights Act this week, The Seattle Times Editorial Board called the remedy of providing for district-based elections "a solid avenue for voter redress."

"I applaud the efforts of the broad coalition supporting the Washington Voting Rights Act and am proud to support this important legislation," said Inslee in a statement. "Our democracy is dependent on robust participation of both the electorate and those willing to serve. Any healthy democracy must seek diversity and equitable representation for all. In instances where it is clear that opportunity is being repressed, there must be a process for righting that wrong. That's why, in 2006, I voted for a 25 year extension of expiring portions of  the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act and why I support efforts to promote equality and democracy at the local and state level as well - including the Washington Voting Rights Act."

"I am pleased to support the Washington Voting Rights Act," said Bob Ferguson. "This legislation will affirm Washington State's commitment to the principles of democracy, fairness, and equal representation. It will provide a set of tools to help us build an even stronger democracy in Washington State."

"I am proud to support the Washington State Voting Rights Act of 2012," said Rep. Smith in a statement. "'One Person, One Vote' is at the heart of our democracy. This meaningful legislation would insure that racial minorities have the best possible opportunity to be heard and be well represented by their elected officials, just like all other Washingtonians. This is a simple matter of equality that ensures that everyone has the same opportunities guaranteed in the Federal Voting Rights Act. This piece of legislation will help ensure this happens here in Washington State."

"Advocates for the Voting Rights Act welcome the growing support from elected officials and candidates for office not only because it will increase representation of minorities in local elected office, but also because it will help increase voter registration and turnout in minority communities, as happened after the passage of California's Voting Rights Act," said OneAmerica Votes Executive Director Pramila Jayapal

"The essential promise of democracy is a government by consent of the governed.," added David A. Perez, Assistant Director of the Korematsu Center at Seattle University's School of Law and author of the Act. "The Washington Voting Rights Act guarantees that promise."

The Act has already passed through committees in both the House and Senate and is currently in the each house's Rules Committee. The prime sponsor of HB2612 is Representative Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney (D-46), while Senator Margarita Prentice (D-11) is the prime sponsor of SB6381.


For more information or to arrange interviews, contact Charlie McAteer, OneAmerica Votes Communications Director, 206-452-8402, charlie@oavotes.org



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