The Spokane County Republican Party plans to go to court today to try knocking Democrat John Roskelley off the primary ballot.
The county GOP filed a challenge to Roskelley’s current voter registration Friday, and asked Auditor Vicky Dalton to remove his name from the ballot for the District 1 commissioner race, where he’s the sole challenger to incumbent Republican Commissioner Todd Mielke. But an auditor has no authority to strike a name from the ballot, Dalton said, and the party must convince a Superior Court judge to do that.
“This is a very clear-cut case,” said Matthew Pederson, county GOP chairman, contending Roskelley is trying to “deceive voters” with the address.
“It’s just politics,” Roskelley said of the challenge.
County commissioners must live and run in their district for a primary but run countywide in the general election.
At issue is the East Heron View Lane address Roskelley lists on his voter registration, which determines whether he is eligible to run in Commissioner District 1. There is no house on that property, although Roskelley said he’s owned the land for about five years. He and his wife sold their farm, which is in that district, last May, and moved temporarily into their son’s house, which is not in that district, while they made plans to build on the East Heron View lot.
Roskelley said he hired an architect who drew up plans, and filed for a building permit for that structure in March. He and his wife later decided to scale back, came up with a less-expensive plan and filed for a new permit. They discovered local covenants required a third garage, so they needed another change. He expects to pick up the final permit this week. In the meantime, he dug a well, built a road and had a septic system designed for the property.
“He plans to build, but he does not have any improvements besides a well. There is no habitable abode” on the property, Pederson said.
State law doesn’t turn on whether there’s a building on the property. It focuses on the question of “residency” rather than “occupancy.” In 1992, a judge ruled Skip Chilberg could run in a commissioner district where he had property and a trailer, but no house, because he intended to build a house on the property.
Courts are generally lenient in giving the benefit of the doubt to the voter, Dalton said.
The court challenge must be filed by today, and a hearing held by May 30. A quick decision is needed because the Aug. 7 ballots must be printed soon.
Pederson said the county GOP will file by the deadline. He said he hadn’t reviewed the Chilberg case but that the party is talking with several attorneys about filing the challenge.
Roskelley said he asked Dalton earlier this year whether he’d be able to use the East Heron View address for his candidacy and was told he would because he intended to live there. He lived in the district for 27 years – representing it on the county commission for eight of those – and said he would’ve moved into an apartment if he’d been told something different.
“I’ll defend myself. If the courts rule me out of it, so be it,” he said.
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