A roundup of news and announcements we don’t want to get lost in the fast-churning news cycle!
curated by Vee Hua 華婷婷
✨Gleaming This Week✨
- Washington State Passes an Extensive Suite of New Laws to Enhance Election Security and Participation
- University of Washington Undertakes State-Mandated Psilocybin Trial
- The Seattle Public Library Seeks Feedback on Development of Mobile App
Washington State Passes an Extensive Suite of New Laws to Enhance Election Security and Participation
Gov. Jay Inslee has recently signed into law a wide range of new legislation designed to advance priorities of heightening election security, bolstering voter education, and fighting election disinformation. Passed with bipartisan support in the Washington State House and Senate during the 2023 legislative session, the bills were supported by Secretary of State Steve Hobbs, who stated in a recent press release that, “These new laws and critical funding will go a long way toward reducing barriers to voter registration and enhancing election security.”
These bills include the following:
- Senate Bill (SB) 5208: Updates the process of online voter registration so that applicants can provide the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, as opposed to driver’s license or state ID numbers, thus benefiting those who are older, have mobility issues, or do not need identification.
- SB 5112: Makes voter registration automatic for anyone who has proven their citizenship at Washington State Department of Licensing branches, while applying for enhanced driver licenses or enhanced state ID cards.
- SB 5082: Encourages voter participation and clarifies potentially confusing processes by abolishing advisory votes, which ask voters to help provide input and opinions as opposed to casting decision-making votes.
- SB 5152: Defines “synthetic media” as media that may include but is not limited to: realistic false images, videos, or audio, including “deep fakes,” and prohibits political campaigns from using them to spread disinformation.
- SB 5182: Changes the candidate filing period when they can run for office to begin on the first Monday in May, rather than later in the month. According to the State’s press release, “this change provides more time for county elections officials to produce informational materials in multiple languages.”
- SB 5459: Redirects public records requests regarding the statewide voter registration database to the secretary of state, as opposed to individual county elections offices, in response to increasing requests for “records concerning voter registration information, election data, and systems and processes of election administration” over the past few years.
Inslee also renewed the Office of the Secretary of State’s Information Security Grant Program on May 16, when he approved the biennial State operating budget on May 16. The grants were initially launched in November 2022 to provide counties across Washington State up to $80,000 each to “cover investments in cyber and physical security improvements” such as “funding to purchase or upgrade security software, hardware, and subscriptions; hire IT security personnel; make structural enhancements; and more.”
More information about elections security and the electoral process can be found on the Office of the Secretary of State’s Elections website.
University of Washington Undertakes State-Mandated Psilocybin Trial
The University of Washington (UW) School of Medicine will soon be undertaking a State-mandated trial on psilocybin and its effects on mental health. The study comes as a result of Senate Bill 5263, which was signed into law in early May by Gov. Jay Inslee and mandates a study that explores the potential therapeutic value of psychedelic mushrooms.
It will feature “30 to 40 military veterans and first-responders who have documented problems with post-traumatic stress and alcohol use disorders,” according to UW, and participants will likely come to the trial through a partnership with community-based organizations. The bill requires that the trial begin treatment on Jan. 1, 2025, thus giving researchers a year and a half to create the program’s infrastructure.
“Our hope is that in targeting this specific population with these two comorbidities we could better understand if this could be a viable treatment moving forward,” says Dr. Nathan Sackett, addiction psychiatrist and acting director of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at UW. Sackett will be overseeing the trial and also co-directs the Center for Novel Therapeutics in Addiction Psychiatry, a UW center that treats those struggling with addiction “by combining psychedelic compounds with evidence-based behavioral interventions.”
According to Sackett and UW, “the trial will be conducted in a controlled environment, with psychotherapy sessions before and after. Participants will undergo their psychedelic experiences with two therapists present. The trial group will be split in two, with half receiving a placebo in the first round. The participants who initially receive a placebo will then be given a chance to undergo the test treatment, as well.”
The study is one of many currently underway across the United States which are designed to help understand the role of psilocybin in treating a number of issues related to depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders.
The Seattle Public Library Seeks Feedback on Development of Mobile App
The Seattle Public Library (SPL) is presently working on developing a mobile phone app to “improve access to the Library system, enhance the online patron experience, and attract new audiences,” according to an SPL press release.
Those who are interested in offering their feedback to help SPL in the process can find printed surveys in library branches or take a short survey online at SPL.org/App. Surveys are available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Chinese.
Paired with focus groups, the surveys are part of “Discovery and Community Engagement,” SPL’s first phase of the app-creation process. This phase will follow with three additional phases, which include: functionality, or reviewing and selecting priority functions; design & development, or developing the app and conducting internal tests; and implementation and launch, which includes public launch and public testing.
SPL has reported that early public focus groups share that they hope for the app to “function as a digital library card, support multiple languages, and include accessibility features like scalable, high-contrast text and voice navigation.”
Those with questions about the survey or mobile app can email or chat with SPL’s staff online at SPL.org/Ask or call them at (206) 386-4636.
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📸 Featured Image: A voter casts their ballot during the primary elections in 2022. (Photo: Jaidev Vella)
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