Kuderer pushes for election reforms

Her bills involve presidential tax returns, faithless electors, advisory votes and more.

State Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue) of the 48th Legislative District has been busy in her role as vice chair of the State Government, Tribal Relations and Elections committee, and recently got five election reform bills passed out of the Senate.

Kuderer now awaits action on the legislation in the House.

One of her bills has been making headlines, as it would keep current President Donald Trump off the 2020 ballot in Washington unless he releases his tax returns.

SB 5078 would require any candidate on the state ballot who is running for U.S. president or vice president to release five years of tax returns before appearing in a general or primary election. Senators voted by a 28-21 margin to approve the bill.

“This is the minimum amount of transparency we should expect from someone who will ultimately have their finger on the button,” Kuderer posted on Twitter.

Another bill also emerged in the aftermath of the 2016 election, when four of Washington state’s 12 electors voted for someone other than Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee who received 54 percent of the state vote.

SB 5074, which passed 29-20, would disqualify presidential electors who do not vote for their party’s presidential and vice presidential nominees. The electors would be replaced with an alternate. This bill would also abolish the $1,000 fine for these “faithless” electors.

“[This would] ensure that our electoral college votes go to the will of the people,” said Aaron Sherman, communications specialist for the Senate Democratic Caucus.

SB 5224, which also passed 27-20, would eliminate advisory votes, which are “incredibly convoluted,” Sherman said.

“They’re nothing more than a straw poll on legislation that has already passed through the Legislature,” he added.

Advisory votes were established in 2008 with the enactment of Initiative 960 so voters could advise the Legislature whether to repeal or maintain a tax increase. The results of advisory votes are nonbinding and do not result in a change to the law.

Kuderer’s other two election reform bills received bipartisan support. SB 5227, which concerns receipt of voter registrations, passed 45-3 and SB 5779, concering ballot drop box locations, passed 48-0.

The bills are currently being read in the House State Government and Tribal Relations committee.

Another election reform passed this session was moving Washington state’s presidential primary from late May to the second Tuesday in March. Gov. Jay Inslee signed this bill, SB 5273, into law on March 14. Inslee is running for president, and the bill is intended to make his state more relevant in the nominating process.

Kuderer, Rep. Amy Walen and Rep. Vandana Slatter of the 48th Legislative District will host a Town Hall from 10:30 a.m. to noon on March 23 at Redmond City Hall to discuss their work so far this session.