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Originally published April 5, 2005 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 5, 2005 at 1:14 PM

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A nasty turn in election challenge

Challenges of the state election system crossed the line from reasonable to unreasonable when a citizen tried to force more than a thousand...

Challenges of the state election system crossed the line from reasonable to unreasonable when a citizen tried to force more than a thousand people with foreign-sounding names to prove their right to vote.

Martin Ringhofer of Soap Lake has challenged voting credentials of 1,668 people in 12 counties based on the sound of their name. "The challenge of voters who may not be citizens is based on listing individuals whose first, middle and last name have no basis in the English language," he said. The effect is hideous racial and ethnic profiling and needless disruption of the lives of ordinary, law-abiding citizens.

The law allows a citizen to question credentials of another voter, but the challenger also must provide personal knowledge that the other person should not be allowed to vote. It should not be a wild guess — a fair description of Ringhofer's evidence so far.

Ringhofer has cast a ridiculously wide net in a fishing expedition that leaves county auditors and voters to reconcile later.

Ringhofer asked election officials to review voting credentials of voters in King, Spokane, Grant, Adams, Yakima and other counties, because their names "appear to be from outside the United States." Ringhofer targets voters with names that are Hispanic and Asian but also Russian and Ukranian.

Ringhofer, who voted for Dino Rossi for governor, appears to be acting alone. State Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance condemned, and distanced himself from, this misguided campaign.

State election officials are not aware of a single documented instance where a non-citizen voted in the governor's race. That is not to say non-citizens did not vote or that non-citizens should vote. They should not.

Ringhofer believes many on his lists are illegal immigrants who registered to vote when they obtained or renewed a driver's license.

Ringhofer has attracted attention of the Department of Justice because he may be in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act, which prohibits use of different standards for voters based on perception of race.

This is a nasty turn in the election challenge. Ringhofer is engaged in a despicable witch hunt.

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