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Published — October 14, 2020

Felony disenfranchisement is one of the only remaining barriers to voting in Washington

Automatic voter registration and same-day registration make it easier for residents to cast a ballot.

Introduction

Voting in Washington is far easier than in other states. 

“It’s still unnecessarily complicated, but it used to be even worse,” said Breanne Schuster, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington.

There are no limits in place on who can request an absentee ballot, as there are in other states. Washington is one of five states that mails ballots to all voters in every election, according to the Washington Office of the Secretary of State. In some elections, 90 percent of the ballots are cast by mail.

The deadline to register by mail is Oct. 26, but voters can register in person all the way up until Election Day.

Residents in Washington don’t have to show a photo ID for their ballot to be counted. Many states have passed restrictive laws that require voters to show photo ID before they’re allowed to vote, which disproportionately affects people of color, who are less likely to have a state-issued identification card.

Washington also allows voters to use non-traditional addresses when they register to vote, such as an intersection or a shelter.

When residents apply for driver’s licenses or state ID cards, they are automatically registered to vote. 

Here’s a look at a barrier to the ballot box Washington residents with felony convictions face:

Felony disenfranchisement

Washington residents who are convicted of a felony lose their right to vote, even after they leave prison. 

“Folks who are still under DOC (Department of Corrections) supervision and custody are not able to vote because they haven’t completed those terms, even if they are working and living in our communities and otherwise contributing to society,” Schuster said. 

In some states, it is difficult to regain the right to vote, but Washington has made that process easier for residents.

Voting rights are automatically restored after residents finish their prison terms and are no longer on parole. And residents don’t have to pay off their court costs before their rights are restored, unlike some other states.

Read more in Money and Democracy

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