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Wednesday, February 22, 2006 - Page updated at 01:01 AM

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Group to file initiative that would require all voters to reregister

The Associated Press

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Voters would have to prove they are U.S. citizens and reregister to vote under an initiative that supporters said they will file this week.

Conservative think-tank Evergreen Freedom Foundation has formed Grassroots Washington, which is backing the initiative that was expected to be announced Wednesday afternoon.

The group takes issue with the state's new $6 million voter registration database, which has been checking for duplicate and dead voters since last month.

"The database is capable of maintaining a clean voter list. It cannot create a clean voter list," Booker Stallworth, the foundation's spokesman, said Tuesday.

Stallworth said he was concerned with the number of duplicate voters that the system has found, as well as the number he says he believes the system hasn't caught, due to misspelled names or inaccurate birth dates.

The initiative would make all voter registrations inactive until people proved their citizenship and reregistered. Voters who show up at the polls and find they are inactive can vote by provisional ballot until their registration is verified, he said.

Similar measures introduced by Republican lawmakers have not gone anywhere in the Democrat-controlled Legislature. Grassroots Washington must collect nearly 225,000 valid voter signatures by July 7 to qualify for the November ballot.

"It's something that we have to address in order to ensure that we have clean voter rolls," Stallworth said.

But Assistant Secretary of State Steve Excell said it's a wrong move.

"Just because we don't happen to think that every voter record is perfect we can't wholesale disenfranchise everybody," he said.

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Secretary of State Sam Reed released the first complete report from the database earlier this month. At that time it showed more than 8,000 dead and duplicate registered voters had been removed from the voter rolls.

But more than 27,000 registrations are still being investigated by county elections officials who are comparing signatures, names, birth dates and most recently cast ballots to determine whether duplicated registrations belong to the same or different people.

"We've made a lot of progress since January and we'll continue to make progress," Excell said. "It's a lot easier to plug and fix a smaller list of problems than to make every voter registration a problem."

The compact disk released publicly earlier this month contains all the state's nearly 3.8 million voters — including more than 400,000 inactive voters. It is the first consolidated list of registered voters from the state's 39 counties.

Excell said investigators had not found any evidence of illegal votes, and noted that most of the questioned registrations were inactive, meaning that the individuals hadn't voted recently. Many of the duplicates likely represent people who failed to cancel their registration in one county when they moved to another, he said.

The new system, running since Jan. 1, brings the state into compliance with the 2002 Help America Vote Act, which required better voting systems, improved voter access and statewide voter registration lists.

The federal legislation was passed by Congress two years after the controversial 2000 election exposed numerous problems with voting systems across the country.

The state's database, paid for by federal money, replaces 39 separate county lists. Counties will now be able to review their portion of the state's voters in the database, which was developed by software experts from the state and Microsoft Corp.

Felon checks, to be conducted four times a year, will start in March. Death-and-duplicate checks will be done monthly.

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