One of the things that pissed me off about last year’s over-hyped election contest controversy — I mean, really pissed me off — was the constant abuse heaped on King County Elections about felon voters. Yes, hundreds of ex-felons who had not properly had their voting rights restored voted in 2004, but this happened throughout the state, in every county. But because the state GOP so successfully promoted their cherry-picked list of KC felons, many voters came away thinking this problem was mostly due to negligence and/or malfeasance in KC.
The fact is, felon votes were pretty evenly distributed throughout the state, and were the result of a decentralized and inefficient system of reporting convictions. Indeed, the problem was so well known and so widespread that a federal law was passed in 2002 requiring the development of statewide voter registration databases to help clean the voter roles of felons, dead people, and duplicate registrations.
Well, WA’s database goes online Jan. 1, just in time to meet the federal deadline, and while it’s not a cure-all, it should make a huge a difference. For example, the new database is hooked directly to records from the prison system, State Patrol and the courts, rather than relying on haphazard communications at the local level. And one of the biggest improvements comes in removing registrations due to death…
To remove dead voters from the rolls, county auditors currently rely on reports from the state health department or obituary notices in newspapers. But those sources may be insufficient if a voter dies while out of state.
With deaths, the new system’s reach will be nationwide, Excell said, because of a tie-in to information from the federal Social Security Administration.
“If you’re dead, we got you,” [Pierce County Auditor Pat McCarthy] said.
See, what pisses me off is that King County Elections was publicly crucified for problems that had nothing to do with King County, and for which solutions were already under development at the state level. There was absolutely nothing nefarious or peculiarly incompetent about the way KC handled these registrations… these registrations were the result of a poorly designed system — nationwide — that was in the process of being fixed.
And yet the headlines from last year told a different, inaccurate story… a story that will shape public perceptions of KC elections for years to come.
It has been pointed out to me that it was Assistant Sec. of State Steve Excell to whom I should have attributed the “If you’re dead, we got you” quote. Ooops.