Simmons’ voting-rights bill OK’d by House

OLYMPIA — The state House passed a key civil-rights bill Wednesday in virtual Olympia, opting to automatically restore voting rights to persons who have been released from full incarceration by the Department of Corrections.

House Bill 1078 was sponsored by Rep. Tarra Simmons, (D-East Bremerton), an attorney and registered nurse who was herself incarcerated at one time. In her first “floor” speech as a state lawmaker, she asked her colleagues to vote for the bipartisan legislation as a proven tool for reducing recidivism. A majority did so.

“I’m able to stand before you today as a member of this Legislature,” Simmons said, “because several years ago I was able to reenter society and regain my civil rights, with the right to vote being one of the most important.

“But it wasn’t easy. The current laws are complex and they penalize low-income citizens who might be struggling to pay for the expenses tied to their case. Tying the right to vote to the ability to pay is simply wrong, no different than the poll taxes that have been outlawed throughout the nation.”

Simmons’ voting rights bill was cosponsored by a bipartisan group of more than 40 lawmakers. It now moves to the Senate for further consideration.