For immediate release
Contact: Abigail Leong
Washington Removes Driver’s License Barrier for Online Voter Registration
Thanks to Senate Bill 5208, all eligible voters can now register online
OLYMPIA, Wash. – On Monday, Washington lawmakers passed a bill to allow people without driver’s licenses to register to vote online. In a state that has prided itself on how simple we make the process to become a voter, the license number requirement on the VoteWA registration portal has stood out as a barrier to new voters. Thanks to the passage of Senate Bill 5208, Washingtonians without licenses will soon be allowed to register online using the last four digits of their social security number and a signature, just as they would on a paper form.
“The communities we serve – including youth, people with past felony convictions, unhoused, and Black community members in areas of King County with the lowest voter registration rates – are less likely to have a WA state ID or driver’s license,” said Jude Ahmed, from the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle. “Senate Bill 5208 removed the additional steps people without a Washington ID must take to submit their ballot, giving everyone an equal opportunity to get registered.”
People who have registered to vote without a license previously only had the options to register in person, or register by paper form and mail. These forms of registration take more time and money, as the potential voters have to access a printer, pay for postage, or travel to an in-person voting center. As people without licenses are more likely to be lower-income, seniors, or young people who are dependent on public transportation, these added burdens can be enough to deter many potential voters.
“This change makes voting that much easier for everyone, whether it’s a 16-year-old pre-registering so that they’re ready to vote as soon as they’re eligible, or someone unhoused whose ID was lost or stolen,” said Jazmine Smith, political manager at the Washington Bus. “Everyone deserves a say in our elections and our future, from the person getting a fresh start in Washington to the person who has had their ballot rejected over and over again because their signature wasn’t updated from when they were 16.”
Our elections officials praise this update to our system as a way to collect more regularly updated signatures from voters, reducing the amount of people who have their ballots rejected. The same groups who are less likely to have driver’s licenses (young voters, Black and Latino voters, and voters with non-English ballots) also are the groups with some of the highest ballot rejection rates.
“Senate Bill 5208 will provide the same degree of convenience and inclusion to people who register online as to people who use pen and paper,” said Secretary of State Steve Hobbs. “I applaud the prime sponsor Senator Trudeau and thank the Legislature for its continuing attention to increasing elections access and look forward to Governor Inslee signing this significant legislation.”
Advocates across Washington applaud our lawmakers for bringing us a modernized system that will better serve today’s voters and future generations of voters.
The WA Voting Justice Coalition is a group of community organizations and individuals, dedicated to voting rights and access in Washington State. We believe that the vote is our tool, as ordinary people, to have a voice in our government. Website: wavotingjustice.org