Croker Sack

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." — Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

What statutory change would enable Dean Logan to understand his duties?

The King County voter registration and elections processes apparently won’t work correctly without a change in the statutes.

The needed change is unusual. The statutes must not only spell out in excruciating detail the duties of county auditors and of King County’s ersatz auditor, the Director of Records and Elections. They must also contain the name of Dean Logan, so he cannot misunderstand or deny that they apply to him.

According to the article, the Snohomish County auditor, Bob Terwilliger, may also need to see his name in the statute before realizing it refers to him. He reportedly believes that he shouldn't do anything to weed out invalid addresses since there is no method that would catch them all. Imagine that: We cannot catch them all, so we shouldn't try to catch any.

Are there any more? Perhaps the legislature must subpoena each county’s auditor for testimony to determine how many more lack the cognitive ability to grasp the nature of their duties.

Today’s article reports that Logan stopped the effort by King County’s elections office to identify invalid addresses on voter registration applications based on an amazingly flawed rationale:

Logan has said it would be arbitrary to question voters about their addresses in more detail to determine if they are residences.

How could it be arbitrary to inquire further of the applicant when the “residence address” stated on the application is one that appears to be the address of a business concern rather than a residence? The facts would justify the inquiry, so it wouldn’t be “arbitrary” in any sense of that word.

RCW 29A.08.110 requires Logan to determine whether a voter registration applicant has put a “complete valid residence address” on the application.

(1) On receipt of an application for voter registration under this chapter, the county auditor shall review the application to determine whether the information supplied is complete. An application that contains the applicant's name, complete valid residence address, date of birth, and signature attesting to the truth of the information provided on the application is complete. If it is not complete, the auditor shall promptly mail a verification notice of the deficiency to the applicant. This verification notice shall require the applicant to provide the missing information. If the verification notice is not returned by the applicant or is returned as undeliverable the auditor shall not place the name of the applicant on the county voter list. If the applicant provides the required information, the applicant shall be registered to vote as of the date of mailing of the original voter registration application.

RCW 29A.08.830, which authorizes citizens to challenge the registration of others, assumes that the original registration contained the other person’s residence address and allows a challenge when the person “no longer” lives at that address:

(1) Any registered voter may request that the registration of another voter be canceled if he or she believes that the voter does not meet the requirements of Article VI, section 1 of the state Constitution or that voter no longer maintains a legal voting residence at the address shown on his or her registration record. The challenger shall file with the county auditor a signed affidavit subject to the penalties of perjury, to the effect that to his or her personal knowledge and belief another registered voter does not actually reside at the address as given on his or her registration record or is otherwise not a qualified voter and that the voter in question is not protected by the provisions of Article VI, section 4, of the Constitution of the state of Washington. The person filing the challenge must furnish the address at which the challenged voter actually resides.

Note that Article VI, section 1 of the state constitution doesn’t say anything about voter registration:

SECTION 1 QUALIFICATIONS OF ELECTORS. All persons of the age of eighteen years or over who are citizens of the United States and who have lived in the state, county, and precinct thirty days immediately preceding the election at which they offer to vote, except those disqualified by Article VI, section 3 of this Constitution, shall be entitled to vote at all elections.

So, the part of RCW 29A.08.830 which refers to a challenge based on failure to meet the requirements of Article VI, section 1 doesn’t appear to apply.

Perhaps one could stretch the statute’s wording to include challenges of improper registrations by arguing that the challenged person never did meet the requirement that he be a resident of the “state, county and precinct” for at least 30 days immediately preceding the election, but that would be not only a stretch – it would be an almost impossible burden of proof to meet. One would need to go back to the time of the registration and find out where the challenged voter was actually living at that time. Instead of using the registration laws to require the registration applicant to identify his residence, the law would be turned upside down to require the challenger to provide what the applicant had been allowed to omit from the registration application, i.e., the applicant's actual residence address at the time he registered to vote.

Article VI, section 7 of the state constitution does require voter registration as a condition of eligibility to vote:

SECTION 7 REGISTRATION. The legislature shall enact a registration law, and shall require a compliance with such law before any elector shall be allowed to vote; Provided, that this provision is not compulsory upon the legislature except as to cities and towns having a population of over five hundred inhabitants. In all other cases the legislature may or may not require registration as a pre-requisite to the right to vote, and the same system of registration need not be adopted for both classes.

Assuming the legislature was attempting to fulfill its constitutional obligation to enact a voter registration law and require compliance as a condition of eligibility to vote, the current laws place the duty of enforcement on Logan and the other county auditors. They are the people charged with the responsibility to ensure that compliance with the voter registration laws is a condition of voting.

But, Logan and others claim not to be able to discern their legal duties, so the law must be changed to make it clear to even the dullest among them.


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