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Secretary of State has 45 days to resolve EFF complaint over Washington’s Violation of Federal Election Laws

August 30, 2006

Evergreen Freedom Foundation News Release

Olympia, WA —Today the Evergreen Freedom Foundation filed an administrative complaint with Secretary of State Sam Reed, seeking a finding that Washington is in violation of the federal Help America Vote Act requirement that states must enact a uniform standard for “what constitutes a vote.”

The complaint focuses on Washington’s practice of having election officials review ballots to determine “voter intent.” Counting machines often won’t read incorrectly marked ballots, so officials duplicate these ballots to ensure the voter’s intent is honored.

Many times a voter’s intent is unclear, however, leaving canvassing boards to decipher what the voter intended. Earlier this summer EFF reviewed the ballot duplication standards in 34 Washington counties and discovered that few had any written guidelines for how to determine voter intent. The few that did were different to the point of contradicting each other. EFF’s complaint details these findings, concluding that such variation “makes a mockery of any notion of uniform standards.”

“The failure of Secretary Reed and the legislature to enact detailed state standards is a violation of federal law,” said Jonathan Bechtle, Director of EFF’s Voter Integrity Project. “Voters should be able to have confidence that the ballots they cast in the elections this fall will be treated equally, no matter where they live.”

“The move to vote-by-mail makes a uniform standard even more imperative, as it will increase the number of ballots that must be duplicated. Even in the off-year election of 2005 over 100,000 ballots were duplicated statewide,” Bechtle said.

The secretary of state has 45 days to resolve the complaint.

click here to see complaint


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