Election hearing turns into revote rally - Vancouver residents give a task force ideas on reforming the system, but the loudest request is to hold the governor's race again

Friday, February 11, 2005
The Oregonian

VANCOUVER -- The Governor's Election Reform Task Force asked for ideas Thursday night in Vancouver, but the most common refrain was not for reform. The crowd wanted a revote.

Residents came with yard signs, pickets, banners and makeshift ties to show their support for a new vote in the Washington governor's race.

But there were other common requests:

Hold the primary election earlier in the year to give counties time to mail November absentee ballots to overseas military personnel. The primary now falls in September, and official vote results are not known until late in the month.

Tighten requirements to prove citizenship and residency, perhaps going so far as to require everyone to re-register. One person testified that two voters, challenged to produce identification, pulled out Oregon driver's licenses.

Prosecute or fire elections workers responsible for such problems as counting votes of the deceased or felons. Many of those complaints were aimed at King County, where the most irregularities were reported.

The task force is headed by Secretary of State Sam Reed. Other members include former state Sens. Betti Sheldon and Larry Sheahan and Sam Smith, president emeritus of Washington State University.

Reed said the Washington governor's race was the closest gubernatorial election in U.S. history. He noted that a Chelan County judge decided he lacks authority to order a revote but that there was a precedent in an Adams County commissioner race. "A revote was ordered, but the election was not held until the next election cycle late that year," Reed said.

Most of the estimated 100 people attending the hearing at Clark College called for a revote, but members of the Green Party asked Reed to endorse an "instant runoff vote" in which candidates are ranked by voters, then the second choices are used if the tally is a tie. A bill has been introduced in the Legislature to allow that system in Vancouver city elections.

Kimberly Dalton, calling herself "the voice for the military," said getting ballots to troops "is more important than deceased voters, alien voters or felons voting."

Michelle Cotner called for independent election workers. "The United Nations would never certify any elections in this country because the workers have an interest in the outcome," she said. Several other people suggested hiring independent auditors to oversee vote counting.

Comments were split on whether to go to vote-by-mail elections or to limit mail votes to true absentees. Several people endorsed an idea already submitted to the task force to use a different color of paper for ballots from voters whose registration is questioned.

Margaret Tweet of Camas noted that she "needed more documents to sign up my daughter for Little League than to register to vote." She complained that poll workers no longer ask for identification.

Dan Euliss, a Clark County independent, said he doesn't want a revote before reforms are enacted. "I don't want to spend $4 million (for an election) to get the same nonsense," he said.

Bill Stewart: 360-896-5722 or 503-294-5900; billstewart@news.oregonian.com



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