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Election suit names county

Island County and Island County Auditor Suzanne Sinclair are named as defendants in a suit to overturn the results of the Nov. 2 governor’s election.

According to the suit, which was filed Jan. 7 in Chelan County, Island County had vote totals that outnumbered the number of individuals credited with voting.

“My recollection is that we reconciled within 20 votes,” Sinclair said of the allegation. “I don’t think we were within thousands of votes. I take umbrage with that.”

The suit also alleges that Island County did not re-canvass votes after voters presented evidence that their legal ballots were not counted.

Another point of contention is that the county was late in sending ballots to military voters who were overseas. Facing a threat of federal court action, Washington elections officials imposed a mandate to have those ballots mailed by Oct. 8. The mandate came in an e-mail from State Elections Director Nick Handy on Oct. 7. Handy was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Island County sent 1,456 ballots to military personnel overseas, said Michele Reagan, Island County Voter Registration Deputy. The county received 1,153 valid ballots in time to be counted, which is a 79 percent return rate.

Standard absentee ballots must be postmarked prior to the day of the election, but military votes are subject to different regulations, Reagan said. Military ballots must only be received prior to when the election is certified, she said.

In Island County, fewer than a dozen ballots were received after the deadline and not counted, Sinclair said.

“We were processing absentee ballots just as usual ... and the feds asked the state to get them out earlier,” Island County Deputy Auditor Anne LaCour said.

LaCour said the e-mail, which was sent to Sinclair, was not received until Friday night.

Island County officials could not send the ballots until Oct. 11, due to the Columbus Day holiday the following Monday, LaCour said. Sinclair said the county traditionally has the ballots out in a timely fashion, but the timing of the state’s primary made it difficult to meet the federal mandate.

“Given our staffing level, even if they had to, I’m not sure is we could have gotten them out on time,” Sinclair said.

Sinclair said that the federal level usually does not push to have the ballots out as soon as they did.

“It was not something we were expecting,” she said. “It sounds like they decided top make a push this year because of the presidential (election), no doubt.”

LaCour said that the state had not set a formal deadline for the county to meet.

“We didn’t miss any state deadlines that are in the law,” LaCour said.

LaCour said that nobody from the state’s elections office has followed up since October, so no punishment is expected.

“I don’t think they can expect us to do something if we don’t know we’re supposed to do it,” LaCour said.

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