The Immigrant Voting Project and
New York University Law Students for Human Rights
Resident Noncitizen Voting in Washington State:
In 1854, the Washington Territorial Assembly passed its first law giving the right of suffrage to white male inhabitants at least twenty-one years of age who fulfilled residency and other requirements. Voters had to be either citizens of the United States or non-citizens who had declared on oath their intention to become citizens.
The original state Constitution of 1889 required voters to be U.S. citizens. This coincided with the removal of women’s suffrage, which had been granted by the Washington Territorial legislature in 1883. However, it also provided a limited incorporation of the alien suffrage provisions of Washington territory, so that male declarant aliens already holding the right to vote continued to have that right. In 1896, a constitutional amendment further provided that “[t]he legislature shall enact laws defining the manner of ascertaining the qualifications of voters as to their ability to read and speak the English language.”
The final remnant of alien suffrage allowed for by the no-effect-on-current voters language was formally removed by constitutional amendment in 1974, although this would have been a mere formal alteration since all alien voters alive in 1889 would presumably have passed away by then. The current constitutional text provides that “All persons of the age of eighteen years or over who are citizens of the United States and who have lived in the state, county, and precinct thirty days immediately preceding the election at which they offer to vote, except those disqualified by Article VI, section 3 of this Constitution, shall be entitled to vote at all elections.”
 Washington Territorial Assembly, House Bill No 1, Ch 1, Section 1, available athttp://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov/Content.aspx?txt=records (digital archives of the Washington Secretary of State) as accessed 11/01/04. These requirements previously to be found in Section 5 of the Act to establish the Territorial Government of Washington, 1853, Thirty-second Congress, Second Session.
 WA Const. of 1889, Art. VI, § 1.
 Women’s right to vote was recovered in Amendment 5 of 1910.
 WA Const. Art. VI, § 1, West Historical Notes.
 WA Const. Art. VI, § 1.