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Felons voted in Island County

Five Island County residents who are alleged felons reportedly cast votes in the November elections.

The county’s auditor and clerk’s office were subpoenaed by lawyers representing the state’s Democratic Committee for information related to votes cast by the five alleged felons.

“The people they’ve named have been given credit for voting, but we don’t know if they’re felons,” Island County Auditor Suzanne Sinclair said.

Sinclair refused to release the names because the voters are not technically classified as felons in Island County.

The names turned up as lawyers for the state’s Democrats square off in an attempt to defend the election of Governor Christine Gregoire.

David McDonald, manager of the Democrats’ legal team, said that the party is seeking to discredit some votes in counties that favored Republican challenger Dino Rossi because the Republicans are doing the same in states that favored Gregoire.

“It’s become necessary to look at all the illegal votes across the state,” McDonald said. Island County favored Republican Dino Rossi in the closely contested vote for governor.

Island County Clerk Sharon Franzen, whose office maintains records of all people convicted of crimes in Island County, said that none of the five people have been convicted of a felony in this county.

“I went through all of our records from the beginning of time and there was no record of them,” she said.

Franzen said that she did run their names through a state database, and records of at least some of the people existed as having felony convictions.

Island County Prosecuting Attorney Greg Banks said that he was unfamiliar with any of the individuals.

“I saw the names, but I can tell you there’s nobody that’s come through our office,” he said.

The names turned up from cross matching conviction records with the county’s voting records. The identity was double checked by birth date and other identifying traits, McDonald said.

“For them to be on that list, they have to be on the Washington State Patrol database and the voter list,” he said.

Sinclair said that three of the five live on Camano, one is in Oak Harbor and one is in Coupeville. Felony convictions exist in Whatcom, Skagit and Snohomish counties, Franzen said.

If a person is convicted of a felony, he or she is stripped of their right to vote. That right can be restored if all fines or restitution are paid and the time has been served. Sinclair said she did not know if any of the five has had their right to vote restored.

If a voter has been stripped of the voting right and casts a vote knowing they can not, that is a felony, Sinclair said.

Banks said that his office would consider prosecution of the voters on a case by case basis. It is possible that even though they are felons, their right to vote has been restored, he said.

“It’s not automatic,” Banks said. “Hypothetically, there’s the possibility that the people have completed all of their obligations.”

Banks said that the county is not liable for any wrongdoing unless somebody knowingly allowed a convicted felon to vote.

The auditor’s office must pore through approximately 30,000 envelopes and poll books to find evidence that someone matching these names cast a vote.

Sinclair said that her office would not have any way of knowing if a person is a convicted felon outside of the county. Courts notify a county where the felon lives at the time of conviction, but if that person moves, the new county is not notified.

She said that a statewide voter database that is currently being created will keep problems such as this from occurring in the future.

You can reach News-Times reporter Eric Berto at eberto@whidbeynewstimes.com

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