An ordinance proposed Monday by City Councilmember Kshama Sawant would require landlords to provide new tenants with voter-registration information.

Share story

Landlords would be required to provide new tenants with voter-registration information under a proposal the Seattle City Council began considering Monday.

Property owners already are required to give tenants a packet of information on housing laws that’s prepared by the city’s Department of Construction and Inspections.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s ordinance would add voter-registration information to the packet. Studies have shown that people on the move vote less, Sawant’s ordinance says.

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, the ordinance says, citing U.S. Census Bureau data.

“Providing voter-registration information to a tenant when a rental agreement is offered … may increase voter participation among tenants who have recently relocated,” Sawant’s ordinance says.

Seattle is the fastest-growing big city in the country, according to a Seattle Times analysis of Census Bureau data released last month. From July 2015 through July 2016, the city had a net gain of nearly 21,000 people — 57 per day, on average.

And among the 50 biggest cities in the country, Seattle has the highest percentage of millennials moving into new digs, according to another recent Seattle Times analysis.

In April, census data showed that 36 percent of the city’s 25- to 34-year-olds had changed homes in the preceding 12 months. Though 63 percent of the movers had changed homes within King County, the rest had relocated to the area.

Sawant’s ordinance is the latest in a series of proposals aimed at empowering Seattle tenants, whose numbers are growing; they make up more than half of the city’s households.

The council in August passed legislation requiring landlords to accept the first qualified tenant who submits an application, and in December it capped move-in fees.

Landlords are suing over both changes, though the city hasn’t yet begun enforcing the first requirement.

In March, the council created the nation’s first renters’ commission — an appointed group of renters that will meet regularly to advise on legislation.

“In a system that is overwhelmingly stacked against us, working-class people, young people, and communities of color are routinely disenfranchised,” Sawant said in a statement Monday.

“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.”

According to King County Elections, you don’t actually need to re-register to vote when you move within the county. You can update your address online, by email, by phone, by mail or in person.

And while you’re encouraged to update your address when you move, you don’t have to do so in order to vote.

If you have your mail forwarded to your new address and receive a ballot that way, you can submit it. You also can access your ballot online and submit it via email, by mail or at a drop box. Finally, you can vote in person at one of the county’s accessible voting centers.

In April, mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver cited frequent relocations as a reason why she hadn’t voted in a number of prior elections. She said high rents had forced her to move at least once per year, making it difficult for her to get mail-in ballots.