Photo: Seattle City Council/Flickr
Seattle City Council began considering a new ordinance proposed by Councilmember Kshama Sawant on Monday that would require landlords to give new tenants voter registration information, reports the Seattle Times.
Landlords already provide new tenants with a packet of information prepared by the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections outlining local housing laws. Under Councilmember Sawant’s ordinance, voter registration information would be added to the pre-existing packet.
“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 in a press release.
Despite Councilmember Sawant’s statement, King County Elections doesn’t require residents to update their address every time they move. They encourage people to update their addresses online, by email, by phone, by mail or in person, but it is not required in order to vote. However, to receive a mail-in ballot, King County Elections does need your correct address, and updating this information can become cumbersome for people who are forced by rent increases to move yearly.
The ordinance points to studies that have shown people who move frequently are less likely to vote. Citing U.S. Census Bureau data, the ordinance describes the discrepancy in voter turnout between long and short term renters. While 41 percent of renters in their homes for more than five years reported voting in 2014, only 21 percent who had lived in their homes for less than one year reported voting.
As an analysis by the Seattle Times discovered, Seattle is the fastest growing major city in the area with a highly transient Millennial population. Census data released this year showed that 36 percent of the city’s 25- to 34-year-olds had changed homes in the preceding 12 months. Although 63 percent of the movers had changed homes within King County, the rest had relocated to the area.
“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 in a press release.
Councilmember Sawant’s legislation will be discussed in the Energy and Environment Committee on June 13 at 2:00pm.