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Originally published October 21, 2006 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 21, 2006 at 12:23 AM

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Election 2006

Registration forms' late delivery makes 1,100 ineligible to vote

About 1,100 King County residents are not eligible to vote in the November election because a box containing their voter-registration forms...

Seattle Times staff reporter

About 1,100 King County residents are not eligible to vote in the November election because a box containing their voter-registration forms was sent by UPS rather than U.S. mail, election officials said Friday.

The signed forms, collected in Pierce County during a drive to register more minority and low-income voters, were picked up by UPS one day before the Oct. 7 deadline for mailing registration forms. They arrived at election headquarters Oct. 9.

Because state law allows registrations to be processed only if there is a "postal cancellation" by the deadline, officials say these registrations arrived too late.

"They didn't have a U.S. postmark that was posted in time," Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Janine Joly said.

Elections spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said there was nothing on the package that confirmed the claim by the organizers of the voter-registration drive that they mailed the box before Oct. 7. The only date on a UPS shipping tag was Oct. 9.

But the tag also showed a UPS tracking number. UPS records showed the package was initially picked up in Fife at 2:05 p.m. Oct. 6.

The voter-registration drive, funded by Project Vote, was conducted by Washington ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). Registration forms from Pierce County residents were hand-delivered to election officials there, said Michael Slater, director of Project Vote's election administration program.

Slater said the state law appears to conflict with voters' register-by-mail rights set out by the federal "Motor Voter Act." If King County doesn't agree to let the 1,100 registrants vote, he said, he expects a lawsuit will be filed in an attempt to strike down what he called "a perverse" state law.

"We're looking for a resolution to get these folks on the rolls," Slater said. He said he hoped the prosecuting attorney and the secretary of state would "look at the facts again and make the right decision."

But Nick Handy, state elections director in the Office of the Secretary of State, said state law is clear. "The way I see it is there are two standards," Handy said. "If you send it by the post office, we're going off the postmark. If you send it by a private organization, it's the date of receipt. ... We can argue all day the wisdom of that."

Although the state deadline for mail-in registrations has passed, citizens may still register in person through Monday. King County Elections offices at 500 Fourth Ave. in downtown Seattle will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday.

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com

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