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Originally published Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 10:02 PM

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Port of Seattle CEO voted where he worked, not where he lived

Port of Seattle CEO Tay Yoshitani lives in Bellevue but has regularly voted in Seattle elections since 2007 because he registered using his work address.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Port of Seattle CEO Tay Yoshitani lives in Bellevue but has regularly voted in Seattle elections for the past couple of years because he registered using his work address.

Yoshitani only recently changed his voter registration to reflect his residency in Bellevue, where he has owned a home since June 2007.

Yoshitani declined to talk about the issue on Thursday, instead issuing a statement explaining that after arriving here to take the port job he was temporarily living in a Seattle hotel. At that time, he said he registered to vote using his office address of 2711 Alaskan Way.

"I failed to change the address when I purchased my home," his statement said. "When the oversight came to my attention in April, I promptly changed my registration with King County Elections to my home address."

State law says voters who have a traditional residence should register to vote where they reside.

"You register to vote where you reside, and to a certain extent, where people consider that they reside is subjective," said Katie Blinn, deputy director of elections for the Washington Secretary of State. "It is not always clear cut. It's not necessarily where they put their head on a pillow each night."

With the exception of missing a few special elections, Yoshitani regularly voted the last few years, according to King County Elections records. That means he voted in the 7th Congressional District and in recent City Council and mayoral elections, as well as elections that included several property-tax levies.

King County Elections referred the issue to the King County Prosecutor's Office. However, a spokesman for the King County Prosecuting Attorney downplayed the matter.

"It has been the general policy of the King County Prosecutor's Office not to criminalize failure to register at the proper address under certain circumstances," said spokesman Dan Donohoe. "It's a common mistake, and there's not an intent to defraud or anything like that."

Yoshitani replaced former Port CEO Mic Dinsmore. Yoshitani, a West Point graduate, has worked to clean up port operations after a state audit revealed loose accounting and contracting practices. He has repeatedly said he has "zero tolerance" for fraud.

Port Commissioner Gael Tarleton said she understood Yoshitani had to get a Washington state driver's license before he had a permanent home address, so he used the port address on his driver's license and voter registration.

Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or eheffter@seattletimes.com

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