My good friend Stefan and I had a bit of a rapprochement yesterday. I parked my car next to his at the voter registration challenge hearing — his personalized plates and David Irons bumper sticker were a bit of a giveaway — and apparently, neither of us slashed the other’s tires. We even exchanged a few pleasantries, though he claimed not recognize me, saying I have a common looking face or something. (Yeah… us whiney, bearded, 40-somethingish Jewish guys all look alike.)
Anyway, I could only hang around for part of the first session — in which only one of fifteen challenged voters actually showed up — but I think Stefan neatly sums up the subtext of yesterday’s hearing, and indeed, the entire GOP-manufactured election integrity controversy:
It’s conceivable that not all of the no-shows are real people.
Yes, it is conceivable. It’s also conceivable, I suppose, that each and every one of the no shows belongs to the contingent of North Korean soldiers I keep quartered in my basement. Or perhaps, they’re just average citizens, otherwise eligible to vote, who may have innocently, but improperly, registered at a rented mail box. Or, they may have been wrongly challenged, but busy.
The point is, nearly all the allegations of fraud and corruption that Stefan and his GOP cohorts have been flinging about for over a year, are, in fact, conceivable. But what the GOP has consistently failed to do is provide actual proof.
No doubt, at any one time, the voter registration rolls are filled with errors; erroneous registrations are being added and corrected every day. As a case in point, in the few weeks between the time Sotelo “personally” compiled her list of allegedly improper registrations, and the time she filed her Oct. 26 challenge, at least 126 of the voters on the list had already, unprompted, and on their own initiative, fixed their voter registration.
So it is important, when looking at this trumped up controversy, to focus on what exactly the problem is that the GOP hopes to solve? Are there hundreds of King County voters (out of 1.1 million) improperly registered at non-residential mailing addresses at any one time? Most likely, yes. Is there a scrap of evidence that any of these individuals are otherwise ineligible to vote? Well, if the GOP had actual evidence of fraud, you can be damn sure they’d let us know. So what is the problem?
These voter registration challenges are typical of all the other GOP allegations of fraud, which together amount to a collection of hearsay and conjecture intended to undermine the public’s faith in our electoral system. And like all of the Republican sponsored election “reforms”, the solution they propose is intended to fix a problem that doesn’t exist… disenfranchising innocent voters in the process.
For example, I’m told that the GOP’s original list of 1944 challenges includes the name of a prominent, local musician who registered at a mail box to protect his privacy. One’s voter registration is a public record, and unable to qualify for the address confidentiality program available to victims of domestic violence and sexual crimes, the musician has now apparently opted to no longer vote. Lori Sotelo has forced him to choose between his franchise and his privacy… and he chose the latter. Hardly a victory for the democratic process.
Another example is Terri Carpenter, the single voter who showed up at the 4:30 session to defend her ballot, a woman of unsteady means, whose one link to stability has been the Redmond mailbox she’s rented for the past 15 years. At the time she rented the mailbox, she had been living in a trailer on a nearby parking lot, and has resided, on and off, in various nearby locations ever since. Currently she is living on “recreational property” near Carnation. Should Sotelo succeed in casting out her ballot, we will have achieved little more than stripping the most basic right of citizenship from a woman, who despite her difficult circumstances, made the effort not only to vote, but to defend that vote before a roomful of strangers and a gaggle of media.
And then there is the story of David Combs of Issaquah, who, suffering from severe illness, has become homeless, living in his car, sometimes at the parking lot of the mailbox store he uses as an address. He came to the 6:30 session to beg for his vote, and upon leaving, flipped a picture of his 12-year-old daughter at his GOP accusers, demanding that Sotelo explain to her why her father doesn’t have the right to vote.
Yes, in all three cases the voters were improperly registered, and perhaps Sotelo will succeed in having their ballots disqualified. But to what end?
Out of the nearly 2000 voters that the Republicans challenged — hundreds of them wrongly — less than 184 ballots are expected to come before the canvassing board. All of the challenges may be denied due to the GOP’s failure to meet statutory requirements, though dozens would survive a challenge regardless. But there will not be a single scrap of evidence presented that a single one of these ballots was fraudulently cast by an individual not otherwise eligible to vote.
If the Republicans were truly interested cleaning up the voter rolls, they would have cooperated with King County Elections, and provided their list before the rolls were frozen, rather than filing a sloppy challenge just days before the election. But the problem that the GOP is trying to solve has nothing to do with electoral integrity, for the GOP’s problem with elections is its growing failure to win them in a county and state that continues to trend Democratic.
The GOP is willing to win elections by hook or by crook — by unfairly destroying the public’s faith in Democrats, or by disenfranchising tens of thousands of Democratic voters. That is what this dispute has always been about, from the day it became apparent that the Gregoire-Rossi race was headed for a recount.