By Emma Epperly
WNPA Olympia News Bureau
OLYMPIA — Major state political parties are required to elect one committeeman and one committeewoman from each county. A House Bill proposes to eliminate gender designations from these partisan elections.
HB 1190 sponsored by Rep. Skyler Rude, R-Walla Walla, would eliminate gender requirements in three areas. The bill was heard by the House State Government and Tribal Relations Committee on Wednesday.
The chair and vice chair of each county central committee, the precinct committee officers elected to serve on the State Committee, and the chair and vice chair of the State Committee for the Republican and Democrat parties would be changed to have non-gendered requirements.
Previously, in all three of these areas it was required that a man and a woman be selected or elected.
This is the first bill Rude has put forward as a freshman legislator. He noted during his testimony that if local political parties would like to keep the gender-based policy they can, but this legislation would alleviate the legal requirement.
Rude also mentioned that using binary gender requirements causes issues for those who identify as other than male or female.
“My intention is to maximize accessibility for interested individuals,” Rude said.
According to Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, a similar bill was brought forward last year by Rep. Kristine Reeves, D-Federal Way. In Walsh’s understanding, this bill would “increase the quality and enthusiasm” of candidates.
Rude discussed the issues that when chairs are elected those running for vice chair do not know if they are eligible for the positions until minutes before their selection because they do not know the gender of the chair, commonly selected just prior to the vice chair.
Under the current requirement, the chair and vice chair must be of different genders.
“In my opinion, these positions should be filled by merit, not by sex,” Rude said.
One individual signed in opposition of the bill and two in favor but no one other than Rude testified.
This story is part of a series of news reports from the Washington State Legislature provided through a reporting internship sponsored by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation.