OLYMPIA—Today the Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF) filed a complaint against Secretary of State Sam Reed in Thurston County Superior Court, alleging the Secretary is violating his obligation to prevent ineligible voters from registering.
Under state law, underage voters can register if they will be 18 by the next election. An improper registration is created when an application is accepted from a person who will not attain the age of 18 before the next election. Unwilling to outright reject an underage registration, many counties have resorted to unlawfully sticking these applications in a drawer, often for months at a time.
This improper procedure has led to unnecessary and unacceptable complications that create election errors and dilute legal votes. Over the last eight years, more than 16,000 registrations have been accepted by election officials from underage teens, and dozens have received ballots and cast votes.
This case was filed originally as an administrative complaint in June 2008. An administrative law judge dismissed the complaint in August. The judge found that the Secretary of State is not responsible for preventing illegal registrations but only for removing them from the voter rolls when they are discovered. She said the Secretary of State’s efforts in that area were “reasonable,” and found no violation in the county auditors’ practice of holding on to underage registrations until the voter is 18.
EFF requested an administrative review of the decision, which was conducted by Nixon Handy, the Secretary of State’s Director of Elections. In his final decision issued on September 12, Handy upheld the majority of the administrative law judge’s ruling.
Today’s filing in Thurston County Superior Court is a request for judicial review of the most recent decision.
EFF legal counsel Jonathan Bechtle said, “Everyone can agree that Washington needs honest and accurate elections. This lawsuit will force Secretary Reed to perform his duty to keep the voter rolls accurate and prevent illegal votes. Our action will not disrupt the election in November, but is aimed at a long-term solution to registration problems. All we are asking the court to do is to hold the Secretary of State’s office to the same level of accountability that we expect from clerks selling alcohol in convenience stores.”
• Petition for Judicial Review • Case documents • Audio podcast on underage voters