From the Chair Representative Zack Hudgins chairs the State Government, Elections and Information Technology Committee in the Washington House. He represents the 11th Legislative District, which is one of the most diverse districts in the country. Hudgins proudly drives his 2002 Ford Ranger pickup with over 250,000 miles on it to the state capitol every day. He spoke to The Canvass on April 12. Q: What is your overriding perspective when it comes to elections policy? A: I think we get better government when we have better participation. When I think about elections laws and their impact, I want to make sure it’s about increasing access and increasing people’s voices in the process. Q: What are some of the elections issues you are looking at in Washington? A: My new favorite bill is Senate Bill 5472, by Senator Kirk Pierson. In the Senate it passed the chamber 49-0. It will increase the number of ballot drop boxes in the state. We are an all vote-by-mail state, so you have to put a stamp on your ballot or find one of these drop boxes to turn your ballot in. For the last few years, I’ve pushed to have more of these drop boxes available around the state. Some people refer to the stamp you need to put on the ballot to mail it a “poll tax.” I refer to it as a “hassle tax.” Younger voters too are less likely to use the mail, so a place to drop the ballot off makes it easier for them. We will increase that to over 250 new drop box locations with this bill if it’s signed into law. King County, which I represent, is the largest county in the state yet it only had 10 drop boxes in the whole county. It’s increased since then, but the trend is more ballots coming in through the drop boxes rather than the mail. There are two other issues that we are working on that aren’t full resolved yet. First is voter registration and trying to standardize that process across the state to make it easier. We have different sets of laws and dates for when you can register online or in person and we are working with the Secretary of State to sync those up. We will continue to work on other registration issues like preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds, same day registration and automatic voter registration. The other item we are working on and will continue to talk about is election dates. We have about four elections a year in Washington and I want to know if the election date affects turnout. Our state primary is in August and it typically has low turnout as people are likely on vacation. If we moved that date-would it increase participation? Also, we are looking at the date of our presidential primary and if we can sync it up with other states. We’ve also got a good bill on transparency and reconciliation reports. After our extremely close governor’s race in 2004 that came down to 133 votes out of millions cast, the goal is to require ballot reconciliation reports so that every ballot is accounted for. Our bill would require the secretary of state to gather up the reconciliation reports from each county and compile them into a large report to start comparing counties. We have all new members to the committee so we’ve been working through the issues this year and trying to get up to speed. Q: What are you most proud of when it comes to elections in Washington? A: I think we do a lot of great things in our elections in Washington. One of them is our voter pamphlet. It’s a great source of information and discussions on the various ballot initiatives that people will be voting on that year. I think vote-by-mail has worked out great as well. It really bumped up our voter turnout for a while and it’s a great way to give people flexibility when it comes to voting.