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Police investigate voter signatures

Police in Island County are looking for some 150 voters with suspicious signatures on file in the Auditor’s Office.

No need to worry about being handcuffed and read your Miranda rights, however. The cops are just helping make sure everyone’s vote was accurately tallied in recent elections.

Auditor Suzanne Sinclair said police involvement is required by a new state law dealing with tracking down possible fraudulent voter signatures. In the past it was the county auditor’s job, but now police have to step in when the auditor runs into a dead end.

Last November, for example, Sinclair’s staff questioned whether some 400 signatures on absentee ballots matched those on file in voter registration records. Letters were sent to each person, and most quickly came in and verified their signature. Only about 150 have not responded.

“The police are following up,” Sinclair said Monday. She met with county Prosecutor Greg Banks, Sheriff Mike Hawley, Coupeville Marshal Lenny Marlborough and Oak Harbor Police Chief Steve Almon to discuss strategy to investigate the possible voter fraud.

Sinclair doubts that much, if any, fraud will be found. She said signatures often don’t match because they tend to change as people age. “Usually, the mismatch is because the voter’s signature has changed over time,” she said.

Hawley, in a written statement, said, “We fully appreciate the importance of the integrity of the voting process, but we need the voting public to help us avoid needless and expensive investigations by responding to the auditor’s letter.”

Anyone who has not yet responded to a letter from the auditor after the November general election, or local February elections in Coupeville and South Whidbey, are asked to stop by the auditor’s office in Coupeville for a signature check.

Sinclair said the process will be easier in June when a new regulation takes effect allowing voters to mail a photo copy of identification, such as a driver’s license. The auditor’s office will match that signature against voting records and place it on file.

Sinclair emphasized that those contacted by the police are not under suspicion of voter fraud.

“We’re not investigating these people, we’re just making sure they signed their ballot,” she said.

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