As reported in today’s Seattle P-I, the Democrats are challenging the bogus voter registration challenge-cum-intimidation scheme the Republicans trod out just days before last Tuesday’s election.
Democratic lawyer David McDonald said Monday state law requires the challenger to supply the actual address at which the challenged voter resides — something Sotelo did not do.
“The law is pretty clear,” he said, adding that the challenges should be dismissed out of hand.
I’ve obtained a PDF of McDonald’s letter to Dean Logan, but the gist of his legal argument is a fairly simple one. RCW 29A.08.830 clearly states that “the person filing the challenge must furnish the address at which the challenged voter actually resides.” If that’s not clear enough, the Voter Registration Challenge Form, as defined by WAC 434-324-115 restates that requirement twice:
If the challenge is based on residence, RCW 29A.08.830 requires the challenger to provide the address at which the challenged voter actually resides.
Yet the Republicans made absolutely no effort to verify the challenged voters’ actual residences. Instead, they just creatively enhanced the Challenge Form, adding on a new check box:
Pretty sneaky, huh? Too lazy and irresponsible to do the work necessary to provide the voter’s actual address, as required by law, the Republicans simply concocted a new category for challenging a voter’s registration, and tacked it onto the end of the form. Go check out WAC 434-324-115… there is no sixth check box! Sotelo & Company made it up!
I checked with King County Records & Elections; the form the KC GOP used was not the standard form provided by the state or the county. Thus there can be absolutely no possible way to chalk this up to human error or an innocent misreading of the law. Knowing that they had not done due diligence, and had not met the requirements of the voter registration challenge provisions, the Republicans intentionally modified the challenge form to suit their needs.
Thus Lori Sotelo’s affidavits were not only perjurious… they bordered on fraud.
Why would the Republicans file nearly 2000 bogus voter registration challenges when they knew they would likely not hold up in court? I can think of only two reasons: a) this was part of a campaign of voter suppression and intimidation the GOP has been pursuing nationwide, and b) it was a desperate, last minute PR stunt… the death-cry of their yearlong campaign to discredit KCRE, and by association, Ron Sims and the Democrats.
If it was merely the latter, it explosively backfired. Due to the GOP’s unwillingness to do the work required by law, hundreds of voters were wrongly challenged, either through dumbfuck errors (like apartment buildings Sotelo claimed not to exist) or through a cynical misrepresentation of state law. Many of the challenged voters live in house boats or in commercial buildings… “nontraditional” addresses WAC 434-208-100 clearly contemplates:
No person registering to vote, who meets all the qualifications of a registered voter in the state of Washington, shall be disqualified because of a nontraditional physical address being used as a residence address. Nontraditional addresses may include shelters, parks or other identifiable locations which the voter deems to be his/her residence. Voters using such an address will be registered and precincted based on the location provided.
Just because an address appears to be nonresidential does not mean it is an invalid registration address. That is why the law requires the challenger to provide evidence of the voter’s actual address.
Ironically, McDonald concludes his letter by citing the precedent set by Judge Bridges in the GOP’s failed contest lawsuit.
As a result of the recent close Gubernatorial election, this State has recently undergone extensive litigation concerning the meaning of its election laws. One of the clearest judicial results in that exercise was the decision by Judge Bridges that voters could not be stripped of their votes (or registrations) based on just such assumptions. […]
Those principles were not enshrined by the Legislature and recognized by Judge Bridges simply to make it difficult to challenge elections or voter registrations. It shouldn’t be easy for a private party to challenge a voter’s registration and our state’s law plainly imposes specific and high standards. A challenge which fails to include essential, statutorily-required elements is patently insufficient to meet those standards.
In relentlessly attacking KCRE, the Republicans hope to add weight to the myth they’ve perpetuated, that Democrats somehow “stole” the 2004 gubernatorial election. But there’s a reason why they cannot find a single auditor to support their allegations that KCRE is rife with fraud, corruption and incompetence… why a Republican Secretary of State and a Republican County Prosecutor have dismissed their charges while Republican federal prosecutors refuse to investigate… and why a cherry-picked, elected judge in a Republican county dismissed their case with prejudice. It has no merit!
The Republicans hope that if they puff out a thick enough smokescreen, voters will eventually see fire. But I think voters are smarter than that, for rather than discrediting KCRE, stupid, cynical stunts like this one end up discrediting the accusers.
What the GOP has proven here is not that there are thousands of illegal registrations, or that KCRE refuses to do its job, but that GOP leaders are more than willing to disenfranchise innocent voters for the sake of a cheap, publicity stunt…. or worse. Every “reform” the Republicans champion is intended to suppress the vote, and whether you believe this is based on a cynical electoral strategy or a sincere philosophical difference, the result is the same. Should the Republicans have their way, thousands of legal, WA voters would be purged from the roles, while tens of thousands more would have their ballots discarded as unreadable by the vote counting machines.
Our state elections laws strike a delicate balance between preserving the integrity of the voter rolls, and protecting the franchise of eligible voters. Given the opportunity, the GOP would clearly tip this balance steeply in the wrong the direction.
A week after the election, Sotelo today rescinded 12 more challenges.