Voting rights for people with guardians

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Phil Jordan

House Bill 1876 Approved by Lawmakers

Voting is the cornerstone of a democratic society. Unfortunately, many citizens have lost their right to vote simply because nobody thought about it. If you have a full guardianship, you may be one of those people.

Under current law in the state of Washington, a person who gets a full guardianship usually loses their right to vote automatically. This happens despite the fact that many people who have guardians are perfectly capable of deciding who they want to represent them in public office. House Bill 1876 was designed to make sure that nobody loses their right to vote simply because they have a guardian. After a long battle in the Legislature, the bill is on its way to the Governor’s desk for her signature.

The bill states that during a guardianship hearing, the judge must make a specific ruling on whether or not the person retains the right to vote. Furthermore, the judge is given some guidance about how to make her or his decision. Under House Bill 1876, if the judge determines that the person understands the process of voting and is capable of making a decision, they will retain their right to vote. This language should ensure that many people who, under the old law, would have lost their right to vote will now keep it.

The bill was sponsored by Representative Tami Green, who successfully guided the bill through the House of Representatives. In fact, the House approved the bill unanimously, 96-0.

The bill moved onto the Senate where it faced many questions. Some of the Senators thought that people had guardians because they were unable to make any decisions for themselves. Advocates for the bill worked long and hard to explain to these Senators that the current law was depriving people of a basic right. People from all over the state wrote into their Senators asking them to support the bill. Finally, after weeks of educating the Senate on this issue, the bill passed the Senate by a vote of 36-5. There is only one hurdle remaining before the bill becomes law - the Governor needs to sign it. At the time this article was written (April 18, 2005), the Governor had not yet signed the bill.

Here are some links to more information about House Bill 1876:

Text of the Bill

House Bill Report