A state Voting Rights Act bill that has passed the House two years in a row will again not make it out of the Senate. Senate Republican leaders said earlier this week there were negotiations on the bill through last Friday, but they failed to reach a compromise. Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said the sole focus now is passing a supplemental budget to fund government through the 2015-17 biennium. “I think right now all of the bandwidth is focused on getting the three budgets out of here because that is the one thing we do really need to do that we all agree on,” Schoesler said at a news conference Tuesday in Olympia. Gov. Jay Inslee called the Legislature into an immediate special session Thursday night when no budget had emerged.
House Bill 1745 would establish a process for minority groups protected under the federal Voting Rights Act to petition their local governments for a change in elections if they have evidence the current system — for city councils, commissions or school boards — suppresses their interests.
It also would give municipalities the power to change their form of elections to electing council members by districts rather than at-large, something currently not allowed for most cities under state law. That’s of immediate concern to cities such as Pasco, which is exploring redistricting options and recently received a letter of concern from the American Civil Liberties Union.