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June 4, 2012 at 11:03 AM

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Sam Reed, Republican

Washington's Secretary of State, Sam Reed, usually stresses how non-partisan his office is, and has been widely praised for being nonpartisan in his work. But Reed is a Republican, albeit of the party's moderate wing, and on Saturday, June 2, he spoke to the Republican state convention in Tacoma: a group much more conservative than he. Reed, who is leaving office after a long career, answered the unspoken question: What difference has it made all these years that you were a Republican?

One answer was that he and Attorney General Rob McKenna had defended Washington’s law that strips the right to vote from imprisoned felons. A lot of Democrats support that law, too, but there are some on the liberal side who argue that it unfairly disenfranchises minorities and is essentially a racist law. It is a law that most states have; at the time of the lawsuit, only Maine and Vermont allowed convicts to vote.

The challenge came from a group of convicts who had filed suit in the 1990s. In their case, Farrakhan v. Locke, they argued that Washington imprisoned minorities in greater proportion than their share of the population (which is true), and that taking away their right to vote violated the Voting Rights Act. A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with this argument and voided the Washington law, but McKenna and Reed appealed, and an 11-judge panel of the same court reversed the decision, saving Washington’s law.

Reed’s second answer was that in 2007, when employees of the liberal group ACORN committed voter registration fraud in King County. Reed pushed to have them prosecuted, and five of them went to prison; officials in other states had let similiar violators off with lesser penalties.

It is widely believed on the right that ACORN was cheating to swell the votes for Democrats. In this state, at least, it was a case of lazy canvassers cheating ACORN because it was easier to invent unregistered citizens than to find real ones.

A Democrat in Reed's office might have done what Reed did, but it would depend on the Democrat.


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