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Linda Thomas

Will Washington state purge illegal voters?

WaCapitolLaws designed to reduce voter fraud before the November have been causing controversy all over the country, and now Washington's Secretary of State has signed a letter asking Homeland Security for help verify voting records.

In Florida, an attempt to remove non-citizens from the voter rolls lead to dueling lawsuits.

Florida's Secretary of State had to release the names of over 180,000 registered voters, believed to be mostly Latino, who are suspected of being illegal immigrants and therefore would not be allowed to vote in the upcoming state and presidential elections.

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler is intensifying efforts to root out and remove any non- citizens from his state's voter rolls before the November election, too. He has the support of the Attorney General in Colorado, who is supporting Mitt Romney's presidential election campaign.

This week, Gessler sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, again asking Homeland Security to help verify the citizenship status of about 5,000 Colorado voters.

Gessler wants access to the federal Homeland Security database, known as SAVE, to help the state seek more information on voters' citizenship status.

Ac cording to the letter, Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed attached his name to the effort asking for "cooperation to improve voter roll integrity" along with election leaders in Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Michigan, Kansas, Georgia, Arkansas, Alaska, and the battleground states of Iowa and Ohio.

Is Washington trying to purge those who are illegally registered to vote here before November?

Elections officials say, no.

"We are not approaching this the way Florida is purging voters," says Katie Blinn a Co-Director of Elections. "We are simply trying to find out what information the federal agency has on non-citizens who live in Washington. Then we would need to decide if the information is relevant, and what we should do with it."

There are about 3.7 million registered voters in the State of Washington. The voter registration form asks the applicant if they are a U.S. citizen, but does not use a drivers' license or another form of identification to verify the answer. Voters sign the form under penalty of perjury.

Every month the state goes through voter records to remove names of the deceased and to look for duplicates. Three times a year they check the voting records to make sure there are no convicted felons registered to vote.

Shane Hamlin, another Co-Director of Elections, says Washington has requested records from Homeland Security in 2006 and 2007. Both times the request was denied, with the agency saying their database was not intended to be used for voter registration.

The records would be "one more tool" to help keep state voting records current, but Hamlin reiterates the data would not be used to kick people out of the system as Florida has done.

"Most likely if we had the information and found people in Washington who are not eligible to vote because they are not citizens, we would send them a letter asking them to please cancel their voter registration," says Blinn.

By LINDA THOMAS

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About Linda
Linda is the morning news anchor and features reporter for KIRO Radio. This is her local news blog, with an emphasis on social media, technology, Northwest companies, education, parenting, and anything else that grabs her attention.

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