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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control: Claims of widespread illegal voter registration and fraud dismissed – again

Ryan Dosch, voter services specialist, left, and Kit Anderson, supervisor at the Spokane County Elections Office, roll out carts with ballots headed to the post office on Oct. 18, 2018.  (DAN PELLE/The Spokesman-Review)
Ryan Dosch, voter services specialist, left, and Kit Anderson, supervisor at the Spokane County Elections Office, roll out carts with ballots headed to the post office on Oct. 18, 2018. (DAN PELLE/The Spokesman-Review)
By Jim Camden For The Spokesman-Review

Strike one more effort to claim that hordes of illegal voters are somehow tainting American election results.

A legal motion alleging that Washington elections have, for years, fallen victim to widespread voter fraud by tens of thousands of illegally registered noncitizens was dismissed recently by the state Supreme Court commissioner.

The claims by a group calling itself Washington Election Integrity Coalition United are based on hearsay, lack real evidence and ask Gov. Jay Inslee to do something the law doesn’t require, Commissioner Michael Johnston said.

In other words, 0-for-3 in terms of getting this dog’s breakfast of a legal motion before the state’s highest court.

Johnston didn’t mince words in dismissing as “frivolous” the coalition’s claim that the Department of Licensing has a long history of registering noncitizens to vote when they apply for a driver’s license or a state identification card.

“Without providing a single instance of a noncitizen voting in a Washington State election, (the coalition) asserts there is widespread voter fraud by such individuals,” Johnston said. Instead, the group submitted a YouTube video of someone speaking at a campaign event who said they were a retired Department of Licensing employee and claimed to have witnessed noncitizens voting but was told by supervisors not to interfere.

“Such hearsay (and hearsay within hearsay) is not admissible evidence,” Johnston said.

The coalition also claimed in a “preliminary partial analysis” there are 34,637 noncitizens registered to vote in King County alone. But it provided no foundation, such as the identity and qualifications of the analysis’s author or the source of their data “in support of their bald assertions of widespread noncitizen voter fraud,” Johnston said.

The coalition had asked the court for a writ of mandamus that would order Inslee or his office to verify the American citizenship of every voter registered in Washington. But there’s no legal authority for the governor to check the citizenship status of Washington voters, so a court couldn’t issue an order for him to do that, Johnston said.

The coalition “has not presented competent evidence that the outcome of any election in this state has been affected by this alleged problem,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, at the Legislature

While some states around the country are making it harder to vote or register to vote, some lawmakers in Washington are trying to make it easier, as well as more secure

One Senate bill that got a hearing last Friday would automatically register eligible voters when they sign up at the Department of Licensing, the Health Benefit Exchange or the Health Care Authority. The department would be required to develop a system to determine whether an applicant has enough information, including proof of citizenship, if they weren’t signing up for an enhanced license or ID card, which can only be issued after presenting such proof.

Another bill would move the state’s primary elections from early August to the third Tuesday in May. August primaries often have the lowest participation, coming as they do in the middle of summer, when school is out and many families are away from home on vacation.

State officials have talked about moving the primary to May since shortly after being forced to move the state primary from mid-September to August. That move was needed to allow more time to process results and get the November general election in the mail to meet federal guidelines.

But the May primary comes with a problem of its own.

Candidates would file for office in February, which falls in the middle of the legislative session and would essentially shut down any chance for legislators seeking re-election to raise money for their campaigns. In the case of an overtime special session, they might actually be stuck in Olympia and unable to campaign in their district.

One could argue, of course, that doing a good job as a legislator would be the best campaign strategy an incumbent could adopt, along with being the cheapest. But American elections aren’t really structured that way.

Setting a record

A Muslim, a Sikh and a Hindu walk into the Senate chamber.

This is not some variation on the old “three people walked into the bar” jokes, but a notice that Washington apparently has recorded a first among state legislatures with the arrival of Sen. Yasmin Trudeau, a Tacoma Democrat who was sworn in last Monday.

Trudeau, a Muslim, joins Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, who is a Sikh, and Sen. Mona Das, D-Kent, a Hindu.

The Senate Democratic communications office says it is the first time in American history that lawmakers of those three religions have served together in any state or federal legislative body.

“None of us is defined solely by our religion or our background or our community,” Dhingra said in a news release. “But all of us are shaped by them. And now those communities are shaping our civic culture for the better.”

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