by David Ammons | October 23rd, 2009
Washington’s system for guarding against underage voting has been upheld by Thurston County Superior Court.
After a 16-month challenge brought by Evergreen Freedom Foundation, an Olympia-based think-tank, Judge Anne Hirsch concurred with an administrative law judge and the Secretary of State that the state Elections Division has adequate protections in place to keep 17- year-olds from voting. State law allows 17-year-olds to register to vote if they will be 18 by the next election.
The only problem in recent years was that four 17-year-olds were allowed to vote in the presidential primary last year. No under-aged voting was uncovered in 2007, nor in the 2008 primary and general elections, nor in this year’s primary. In some cases, a 17-year-old was spotted on the state voter registration database, but this was flagged to the home county and the person was removed from the active voter roll. The state, working with the 39 county elections offices, redoubled efforts to screen the voter rolls so that only citizens 18 and older are allowed to cast ballots.
The challenge was brought under the federal Help America Vote Act. EFF’s challenge was rejected in August, 2008, and an impartial administrative law judge later upheld the state’s system for safeguarding against under-aged voting. EFF went to court, and Hirsch sustained the state’s approach.
“The Secretary of State is required to promote voter registration and voting by all eligible citizens, and with protecting the integrity of the voter rolls,” says Shane Hamlin, assistant elections director. “These are both important values that can sometimes conflict with each other. Today’s decision proves the Secretary is successfully balancing these two values, taking seriously the responsibility to maintain accurate registration rolls while also promoting registration and participation.”