Washington removes residency requirement for voter registration

People registering to vote are no longer required to have been a resident of Washington for 30 days and the requirement has already been removed from voter registration forms.

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
Washington’s Secretary of State (SOS) has removed a residency requirement for registering to vote enshrined in the state’s Constitution, according to a new report. The Center Square reported that the agency rulemaking occurred when Secretary of State Steve Hobbs and Washington’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson agreed to a consent decree to settle a 2023 lawsuit arguing that the constitutional provision violated federal law due to a 2018 state law.

Currently, according to the state’s Constitution, to register to vote, a person must be a resident of Washington for 30 days “immediately preceding the election at which they offer to vote.”

In 2023, a lawsuit was filed by the Washington State Alliance for Retired Americans arguing that this residency requirement violated the US Voting Rights Act Amendments of 1970, which prohibit residency requirements for voters in federal elections. The state Legislature enacted Senate Bill 6021 in 2018, allowing Washingtonians to register to vote on Election Day as late as 8 pm.

According to the consent decree, the residency requirement must be removed, not just for federal elections but also for state elections, “as long as the State does not impose a durational registration requirement to vote.”

“As a result of this change, Washington residents who have lived at a particular address longer than 30 days do not have to meet any durational limits to vote, while new residents must meet the 30-day Durational Residency Requirement.”

Ferguson, who is currently running in a tight race to become Washington’s next governor, signed the consent decree on behalf of Hobbs the day after this year’s legislative session ended.

According to The Center Square, the SOS adopted the update at a June 25 rulemaking session, so that people registering to vote are no longer required to have been a resident of Washington for 30 days and the requirement has already been removed from voter registration forms.

Kittitas County Auditor Bryan Elliot told the outlet, "My biggest concern is the rapid implementation of this change in a Presidential Election year. Our offices are agile, but this action has the potential to create further mistrust of the voter registration system, especially when state law and the state constitution both still contain language that is contrary to the consent decree." SOS Communications Manager Derrick Nunnally told the Center Square, when reached for comment, that “this agreement saved the state a costly and likely losing court fight over enforcing the 30-day residency requirement.”
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