Wash Sec of State touts progressive voting reforms, but warns HR1 is 'over-prescriptive' and 'problematic'
Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman testifies at House Administration subcommittee hearing on voting access
The state of Washington is known for having in place the type of progressive election procedures that Democrats are now trying to pass on a national scale, but Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman warned that Congress is going about it the wrong way with their sweeping bill known as HR1.
Washington currently allows everyone to vote by mail and allows residents to register to vote on the same day as elections, which are among the reforms called for in HR1, also known as the "For the People Act." Wyman noted, however, that her state did not put these rules in place overnight, explaining that it takes time to build infrastructure that has proper precautions in place – time that HR1 does not provide.
"Building an elections system that balances access and security took time, money, bipartisan collaboration, and the active engagement of state and local election administrators working closely with legislators to constantly improve our processes," Wyman told a House Administration subcommittee on Thursday during a hearing titled, "Voting in America: Ensuring Free and Fair Access to the Ballot."
Wyman expressed pride in her state's ability to conduct a thoughtful process that resulted in rules that satisfied those on the left while addressing concerns of possible voter fraud – a common issue raised by conservatives. She cautioned that HR1 does not allow for such a process, and took power out of the hands of state and local officials.
"The overly prescriptive and one-size-fits-all approach contained in the elections sections of HR1 discount the voices of state and local election officials who share valid concerns about their ability to implement these sweeping changes within the defined timeframes and leaves little margin for states’ innovation in election administration," Wyman said.
Wyman later reiterated the concern that HR1 does not provide officials with enough time to properly put new systems in place, telling ranking member Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wis., that the bill makes it "problematic for election officials to be able to implement in the timelines prescribed."
For example, Wyman said the voting standards had just been passed and her state does not yet have a facility to test the new standards. She said the timeline set out for the 2022 midterm election is not practical.
"Our state wouldn't have a certified system because if you don't meet the standards and have your systems tested, they're decertified," Wyman said. "That's a huge problem nationally."
Wyman also discussed some of the security measures that Washington has in place to make sure that practices such as universal mail-in voting are conducted securely. For example, she noted that since 2006 the state has required people to provide identification when they register to vote. She said that could be a state ID card, a driver's license, or the last four digits of their Social Security number.
By contrast, HR1 specifically says that states "may not require an individual to provide any form of identification as a condition of obtaining an absentee ballot," although it notes this does not impact ID requirements for first-time voters when they register.
Wyman said the ID requirement is one of the "key elements" of their mail-in voting system because it ensures that the person the ballot is addressed to had their identity verified by a government office.
HR1 also seeks to take additional measures, such as lowering the voter registration age to 16, allowing third parties to turn in voters' ballots – a practice known as ballot harvesting – and requiring presidential and vice presidential candidates to turn over their tax returns.
Democrats supporting the bill say it improves access to ballots and prevents state rules that they argue are unfairly restrictive. Democrats, including President Biden, have vilified Georgia for passing rules that they say would suppress votes. But Gov. Brian Kemp pushed back, arguing that his state's new law, which requires limited early voting and the use of drop boxes, "makes it easy to vote by expanding access to the polls and harder to cheat by ensuring the security of the ballot box."