At a time when several states are making concerted efforts to restrict the voting rights of residents, lawmakers in Washington state are again focused on expanding access to democracy to as many eligible voters as possible.

After regaining the Senate majority in 2018, Democrats in the Washington State Legislature enacted several polices expanding access to voting including same-day voter registration, automatic voter registration, the Washington Voting Rights Act, and pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds. However, the youth pre-registration is an opt-in process.

Senate Bill 6313, the Voting Opportunities Through Education (VOTE) Act, changes that to an opt-out process, making registration automatic unless they choose to not register. It will also allow young voters to vote in primary elections if they will turn 18 and are otherwise eligible to vote before the next general election, which had previously been permitted in presidential caucuses before the state’s adoption of the presidential primary law in 2019.

My bill also creates “Student Engagement Hubs” at the state’s public four-year colleges and universities. The hubs would make it easier for college students to cast ballots if they have last-minute challenges that would otherwise be barriers to voting. For example, the hubs could help people take advantage of the state’s new, same-day voter registration law in the final days before the election.

We have to do more to bring down barriers for young people to participate in our elections. The data is clear — if young people participate when they are 18, 19, 20, in those first formative elections, their lifetime voter participation is much higher. We want to teach young people to be engaged in our democracy.

Watch my Senate floor speech in support of SB 6313 below.