A report by InvestigateWest found alarming discrimination against Latino voters in the state of Washington: in certain counties, voters with Spanish surnames have been much more likely to have their mail-in ballots rejected during a signature matching process compared to non-Latino voters’ ballots. Gibbs Law Group has partnered with co-counsel to file a Lawsuit challenging discrimination against Latino voters in Benton, Yakima and Chelan counties.
Latino voter ballots rejected with alarming frequency in Washington for "signature mismatch"
In 2013, Senate Bill 5124 went into effect in Washington State, replacing the existing election infrastructure and mandating that all counties in the State of Washington conduct their elections by mail.
Since then, InvestigateWest’s investigation found that, since 2013, voters with Spanish surnames, or “Latino-sounding” surnames, in Benton, Yakima and Chelan Counties, have been three to ten times more likely to have their ballots rejected compared to non-Latino voters.
Under the election infrastructure established by Senate Bill 5124, Washington’s mail-in ballots are received and processed by a team of elected officials called the Canvassing Review Board and their elections staff. In order for a mailed vote to be counted, each county’s Canvassing Review Board must agree that the voter’s signature on the outside of the ballot envelope matches the voter’s signature in the voter registration record held with the County.
The Canvassing Review Boards are not required to undergo training on how to determine whether signatures match, even though other governmental officials in Washington are. As a result, our complaint alleges that the signature matching process leaves too much discretion to the elected officials and their staff. This lawsuit seeks to correct this flawed system by implementing standards for the signature matching process and proper training, diversity and inclusion training to combat bias, and more transparency, among other demands.
Our firm’s Voting Rights Task Force is proud to partner with Amend Law and the UCLA Voting Rights Project in protecting the voting rights of Latino citizens in the state of Washington.
Molly Matter is a human rights and voting rights attorney based out of Vashon Island, Washington. She is the founder of Amend Law, LLC, and collaborates with national and grassroots organizations on voting rights investigations, compliance with state and federal voting rights law, and civil rights policy and research.
The UCLA Voting Rights Project is a flagship project of the UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Initiative. This project was founded in 2018 by civil rights attorney Chad W. Dunn and voting rights social science expert Matt Barreto, Ph.D., J.D. The Project is focused on ensuring the right to vote for all Americans, through impact litigation, research, and clinical education to expand voting access.
Two community organizations serving as plaintiffs in the case are League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and Latino Community Fund of Washington.
LULAC is the oldest and the largest Hispanic organization in the United States. Founded in 1929, it has approximately 132,000 members and has fought for full access to the political process for all Hispanics since 1945, when it successfully sued to integrate the Orange County School System in California.
Latino Community Fund’s mission is to cultivate new leaders, support community-based non-profit organizations, and improve the lives of all Washingtonians. LCF has engaged thousands of individuals through the Healthy Family Initiative, Get out the Vote campaigns, and leadership trainings as part of the Alianza Leadership Network.