Democrats in the Senate and the House have matching proposals for “Universal Civic Duty Voting” that would require all eligible citizens to be registered to vote unless they specifically opt out through a waiver.
But, you might say, if they aren’t all that interested in registering, won’t they be unlikely to vote? The bills have an answer for that, too, by requiring all registered voters to cast a ballot in every primary and general election. They could mail in a blank ballot, but it would be illegal not to vote, although the bill does not spell out any penalty for failing to do so.
Unlike the changes to the voting rights statutes, proposals for Universal Civic Duty Voting haven’t been set for a hearing in either chamber. That’s a bad sign at least for the Senate version, which has Sen. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, chairman of the committee that would hear the bill, in control of the schedule.
Sen. Phil Fortunato, a conservative Republican from Auburn, is proposing the state test its voter registration and ballot validation by hiring “hackers to probe the system” by trying to register in multiple counties, cast ballots and have them counted. The hacking would be under the supervision of the Secretary of State’s office.
Fortunato labeled it the State Elections Confidence Using Rigorous Examinations or SECURE Act, proving if nothing else that Republicans are better at coming up with catchy acronyms for their legislation.
At Friday’s hearing, Fortunato likened the hackers to teens hired by the Department of Licensing, who try to buy alcohol in stings designed to catch liquor stores selling to minors. They wouldn’t be breaking the law because they would be “agents of the state,” he said.
“It may not, in fact, be a problem, but we don’t know until we test it,” he added.
Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, scoffed at the proposal, contending that voter fraud is “negligible,” and suggested Fortunato spend some time with county auditors to learn more about the systems already in place to catch duplicate registrations.
“This is a solution looking for a problem,” she said.
Hackers looking for a green light from the state to test their skills might not want to get their hopes up as it may also be a solution looking for a pathway to passage.
It has no listed co-sponsors in the Senate, no companion bill in the House and no date on the Senate committee calendar for a chance to advance to the full chamber.