Secretary Hobbs lauds new laws to strengthen elections

OLYMPIA — Secretary Steve Hobbs praised Governor Jay Inslee and the Legislature Wednesday for enacting new laws requested and supported by Secretary Hobbs to strengthen elections across Washington state.

“Thanks to our lawmakers and Governor Inslee, my office’s elections staff and our election partners in all 39 counties have stronger protections,” Secretary Hobbs said. “A lot of determined and careful work took place in this year’s short legislative session, and our state’s voters are better off for it.”

New elections laws Secretary Hobbs supported or requested include:

House Bill 1241, sponsored by Rep. Mari Leavitt (D-University Place), makes harassing election workers a class C felony and allows harassed election officials to apply for the Address Confidentiality Program. Gov. Inslee signed this into law Tuesday, March 26.

House Bill 1962, requested by Secretary Hobbs and sponsored by Rep. Sam Low (R-Lake Stevens), helps maintain accurate voter lists and streamlines registration updates for voters moving from one Washington county to another. Gov. Inslee signed this into law March 13.

Senate Bill 5843, requested by Secretary Hobbs and sponsored by Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-White Center), requires counties to notify the Office of the Secretary of State if they experience malicious cyber activity and maintain intrusion detection systems to safeguard against election cyber threats, among other security improvements. Gov. Inslee signed this into law Wednesday, March 13.

Senate Bill 5890, sponsored by Sen. Javier Valdez (D-Seattle), enacts key reforms to the ballot review and rejection process. Counties now have standardized requirements for notifying voters of any ballot challenges due to signature mismatches or other issues and have new state protocols for ensuring that accurate signatures are on file in county elections offices. Gov. Inslee signed this into law Tuesday, March 26.

Senate Bill 6269, sponsored by Sen. Valdez, creates a pilot project for methods of verifying voter identity on a returned ballot other than signature matches. With the Secretary of State's approval, counties will be able to test new verification methods during upcoming February or April special election cycles. Gov. Inslee signed this into law March 15.

“Protecting the integrity of our elections is a foundational responsibility of our government, and I am proud that the results of this year's legislative session address Washington’s needs,” Secretary Hobbs said. “Elections are the cornerstone of democracy. Keeping our system secure, sound, and accessible requires diligent attention.”

Washington’s Office of the Secretary of State oversees areas within state government including managing state elections, registering corporations and charities, and governing the use of the state flag and state seal. The office also operates the State Archives and the State Library, documents extraordinary stories in Washington’s history through Legacy Washington, and administers the Combined Fund Drive for charitable giving by state employees and the Productivity Board state employee suggestion program to provide incentives for efficiency improvements. The Secretary of State also oversees the state’s Address Confidentiality Program to help protect survivors of crime.