Capitol Hill Community Post | Councilmember Sawant Introduces Bill Requiring Voter Registration Cards Be Provided to All New Tenants

From the City of Seattle

Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle) introduced a bill to require that landlords include a voter registration card and voter registration information among the required documents provided to all new tenants in Seattle.

Seattle’s voters need to update their registration every time they move to participate in Washington’s vote-by-mail system. Renters move more frequently than homeowners, and studies show that renters are less likely to be registered to vote than homeowners. This bill will provide renters with the tools they need to re-register, or register for the first time. 

“In a system that is overwhelmingly stacked against us, working class people, young people, and communities of color are routinely disenfranchised. This is especially true of Seattle’s renters, who are increasingly being uprooted by skyrocketing rents, and forced to re-register to vote every time they move. This legislation will take one step toward helping working people fight for their rights, including for rent control,” said Councilmember Sawant. 

“The tenants who reach out to us face regular displacement, sometimes as often as every few months. These moves are disruptive to all areas of life, and regularly updating voter registrations is a challenge. Including these forms with the packet already mandated at the start each new tenancy is a small but significant way of facilitating community involvement and civic engagement for renters, who make up the majority of the city’s residents,” said Hana Aličić from the Tenants’ Union of Washington State. 

“Renters make up 80% of people living in my neighborhood, Capitol Hill. We end up moving more frequently to keep up with rising rents, which can make it hard to remember to maintain an up-to-date voter registration. Today’s legislation will bring access to those whose voices we so often exclude from our political and civic process. This is the right move for renters, for our city, and our democracy,” said Zachary DeWolf from the Capitol Hill Community Council. 

“Nearly every tenant that we work with wants to be engaged one way or another, but many simply don’t have the time or resources to register to vote. Giving them the option to register upon move-in will remove that barrier and provide every Seattle renter with the opportunity to shape our city,” said Devin Silvernail from Be:Seattle.

“At the Washington Bus we are consistently trying to find more opportunities to lower the barriers to access in our democratic process. Studies show that voting is a habit — meaning those that vote from one address consistently over time tend to get contacted more frequently by campaigns and candidates, and thus are reminded to vote more often. As an organization of young people, by young people, for all people we know that young people, low income communities, and communities of color often rent and change addresses at higher rates than older, wealthier demographics. By requiring landlords to provide voter registration opportunities upon move-in, we can make our local elections and local representation much more inclusive and more accurately reflect our local population. Over the last 10 years, we’ve registered over 52,000 people to vote — and a significant number of those were due to a change in address. This is a small, but significant step towards making the voting process easier for thousands of residents across the City,” said Emilio Garza from The Washington Bus. 

“LGBTQ low-income communities have high rates of displacement in Seattle and therefore move around a lot. Often LGBTQ renters have not updated their voter registration, making it more difficult to express their voice in elections. This ordinance is a great solution to ensuring LGBTQ renter’s voices are still participating in our electoral system,” said Debbie Carlsen from LGBTQ Allyship.

“APACEvotes believes this new ordinance will make voter registration more accessible and convenient for refugees, immigrants, People of Color, and working folks living on limited-incomes who are disproportionately impacted by rising rents and the need to move more frequently. One of the biggest barriers to civic engagement that our community faces is the need for translated voter materials in Limited-English-Proficiency homes. This new rule would provide voter registration forms and information to all new tenants in the appropriate translated languages available. This is an exciting opportunity for our city to ensure more voices are represented in the democratic process,” said Christina Reiko Shimizu from Asian Pacific Islander Americans for Civic Empowerment Votes (APACEvotes). 

Sawant’s legislation will be discussed in the Energy and Environment Committee on June 13 at 2:00 p.m.

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25 thoughts on “Capitol Hill Community Post | Councilmember Sawant Introduces Bill Requiring Voter Registration Cards Be Provided to All New Tenants

  1. Good grief. Can she please just go away? Now she wants landlords to have to hold the hands of tenants with their voting abilities? Should landlords also fill out their new tenants change of address forms and pay for their movers also?

    Where will it end. Let people be accountable for their own actions and inactions.

    • Well-said, Timmy! If people are so irresponsible that they can’t be bothered to register to vote, or then vote in elections, it is on them and no one else. They are not being disenfranchised by some boogy man, they are disenfranchising themselves!

    • “APACEvotes believes this new ordinance will make voter registration more accessible and convenient for refugees, immigrants, People of Color…”

      So, stop me if you’ve heard this– but refugees and immigrants are generally not citizens. So they can’t vote anyway. And if they’ve recently gone through the process of obtaining American citizenship, you can *damn* sure they not only KNOW HOW to register to vote, but they probably had the opportunity to do so right after their swearing in. And you can bet they’ll be voting first chance they get.
      This is absurd.

  2. Just renting out my unit again – utter confusion. First inline policy – is that first to contact, first to arrive, first to fill out forms ? Who knows. Not me or the renters.

    • Don’t know, either. One of my units is going online in two weeks.

      My new property managers say they won’t even be publicly listing my unit — because of the law, they’ll just use connections they have to prospective tenants.

  3. For Savant’s next agenda item…landlords will be responsible for making sure all toilets in rentals are equipped with TP at all times, and assist tenants in wiping their asses when requested. Because god knows– people who are old enough to enter into binding contracts to rent apartments or homes couldn’t possibly be expected to know how to perform basic functions of everyday life, w/o someone holding their hand.

    Oh, and blowing their noses for them too– can’t forget that.

  4. It’s a method to get a message to a target audience and influence the behavior of the audience.
    The desired result is for her to get enough new votes to stay on the council regardless of how many prior voters she turns against herself.

  5. When voters have had enough of this moron more than 29% of eligible voters should vote the next time she is up for election. As it stands about 15% of voters in her district are responsible for this train wreck.

  6. This proposal merely gives a voter registration card to tenants. It does not require the landlord to ensure the tenant fills it out. It’s a good idea.

    • Using landlords to further her goal, which she states is in the announcement is achieving rent control, seems like a bit much. This proposal also cannot be viewed in isolation. It comes after so many recent proposals favoring tenants and burdening or restricting landlords. It really has become too much.

    • It’s transparent self-interest on her part. Where’s her concern for new homeowners? Oh, that’s right, they’re not who she panders to, are they?

      If we really want to encourage voter registration for EVERYBODY, and not just the demographic that furthers Savant’s self-interest, there’s a much easier way: Have Seattle City Light print a message with every request for new electric service (renters AND owners) directing people to the link where they can either register online, or get more info. Or include a bill insert with the first bill after service starts. If people are too lazy to be bothered to make an effort for either of those methods, do we really want them voting?

    • @Jim98122x: So I know you typically come off as a concern troll, but even someone as well spoken as yourself realizes that there’s still plenty of buildings that have all utilities included, so they’ll never see a bill.

      It’s not laziness that keeps them from voting, it’s the lack of available knowledge to them of how and where to register to vote. And regardless, what could lazy people possibly do worse than other registered voters did this past election?

      We should just have automatic voter registration.

    • The point is she’s specifically targeting renters as that is the base she panders too. Jim’s point is she leaves out everyone else.

      …and our general voting population IS lazy. Look at the pathetic turnout for our last election. Burdening landlords with this task won’t get people engaged in politics. The last thing we need are people voting for the sake of voting. We need educated voters. Otherwise, we end with more of this clown.

    • Which clown: the Seattle council clown or the White House clown? Both are due to uneducated voters. Unfortunately, the latter is probably going to do many orders of magnitude more damage than the former can.

  7. All this time and effort should be used in pushing for automatic voter registration in the Washington State legislature.

  8. I believe that we should make it as easy as possible for people to vote. With that said, I believe that all votes are equal. So I want all voters to take their responsibility serious enough to become informed. Part of this is taking on the responsibility of being registered. Not a high bar. Requiring landlords to do this is silly. Three ways to register
    Online. You can register online , 24 hours a day, at the Washington Secretary of State’s website. To register online , you will need: …
    By mail. Download and print a voter registration form and mail it to King County Elections. …
    In-person. You can register to vote in-person at one of our locations:
    Register to vote – King County

  9. What a waste of everyone’s time and money not to mention more paper from the government being printed and passed out.

    Google “Seattle register online” and you will see that you can register online without the assistance of a landlord AND I will bet that the county registration system has translation services which my landlady can’t offer.

    Almost all of my neighbors are foreign born and don’t vote here so again, passing out voter information as part of renting is a waste of time and money. And let’s not forget all of the people that move here for the summer or to write their book but are registered voters in other places.

    If you get food stamps or Section 8 housing, they offer to register you. Or if you renew your disabled bus pass (I did last week), you get asked if you want to get registered. We could go on all day about how easy it is already to register to vote.

    Ms. Sawant, why should I bother to register to vote and then wait in the rain for an hour to cast a vote for someone that chants, “tax the rich” but slaps a soda tax on the working people? I couldn’t care less who wins the next mayor’s race and I don’t plan on voting or listening to another politician promise me the moon and the stars. Oprah is on or something and I will be busy.

  10. I’m in favor of this as a trade. Get rid of the mold safety handout every landlord is supposed to give their tenants upon moving in. Nobody reads the mold handout, this at least has practical value.

    • I actually appreciate the mold handout (I send it electronically). You may be good at preventing mold growth but from my experiences, some do not possess the knowledge to prevent mold.

      I had an expensive circumstance that could have been avoided if the tenants had simply used their exhaust fan while showering.

      Having to deal with the mold handout serves as a reminder to inform tenants of what they can do to protect their surroundings, health and the property I manage.

    • Thanks, Reality Broker. Appreciate you chiming in with the link. That’s a great solution.

      Their main issue was the fan noise flowing into the bedroom waking up their partner which kept them from using it. So I installed a fan with 1.0 sones and a switch with a timer so the fan can continue to run and auto shut off later on. This solved the issue.

      Mold on windows from not cracking them when cooking etc. is another issue. Some people just don’t pay attention.

  11. She is such bad news here in Seattle! I’ve never been able to get her way if foolish thinking. She wants wants $15 an hour for THOSE who cant get a order “no pickles ” right on a hamberger. Learn to WORK hard and see if your worth that. Duh
    She’s the worthless nonsense that is ruining my beloved city. Go back from whatever rick you came from please! Your damn country didn’t even allow wemen to work. If they want to vote…they will STUPID.