OpenCDA

April 18, 2010

He’s At It Again

Filed under: Probable Cause — Bill @ 12:21 pm

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Kootenai County Clerk Dan English is at it again — changing Idaho’s election laws on his own, ignoring those that require too much work,  and making  up others as he goes along.

Not being satisfied with mangling the November 2009 Coeur d’Alene City election administraton, English has moved up to trying to foul the State Senate District 3 campaigns of both incumbent Senator Mike Jorgenson and his challenger Steve Vick.

English may have succeeded.

According to staff writer Alecia Warren’s Coeur d’Alene Press article on April 17, 2009, headlined Senator questions opponent’s eligibility , Vick had been a lawfully registered voter in Kootenai County.  Then he moved to Montana where he dutifully registered to vote.  The article indicates Vick fully intended to make Montana his permanent residence.  At the moment Vick registered to vote in Montana, his Idaho voter registration was canceled by law.

But after a few months in Montana, Vick changed his mind and decided to return to Idaho.  Shortly after returning, he went to the Kootenai County Elections Office and properly requested to re-register to vote in Idaho. He knew the law.  He knew his earlier Idaho registration was invalidated when he registered to vote in Montana.  Everything Vick did was proper.

But Vick’s request to register when he returned to Idaho was denied because, according to English’s election staff, Vick’s old Idaho registration was still valid.  That was wrong, and English and his staff should have known it.

Vick was trying to comply with what he knew Idaho election law to be.  English and his staff unlawfully denied Steve Vick his right to register to vote.  That is the crux of the issue now between Senator Jorgenson and Steve Vick.  By denying Vick the right to lawfully register, English kept Vick from being a lawful elector.  Only a lawful elector can be a candidate for the Idaho Senate. (ADDENDUM on 04-19-2010: This statement I’ve highlighted in red is factually wrong when held against the statute as explained in Comments 7 and 9 below by commenter smasterston.  However, the Idaho Constitution, Article 3, Section 6, reads, “QUALIFICATIONS OF MEMBERS. No person shall be a senator or representative who, at the time of his election, is not a citizen of the United States, and an elector of this state, nor anyone who has not been for one year next preceding his election an elector of the county or district whence he may be chosen.”  There appears to be a conflict between the statute correctly cited by smasterson and the Idaho Constitution.)

However, Senator Jorgenson is not nit-picking.  His very valid objection to Vick’s candidacy is soundly based on Idaho’s election law.  Jorgenson relied on the county and the state to enforce its laws equally for all. Senator Jorgenson’s expectation that the law would be enforced was reasonable.  He expected Dan English to perform the duties of his office in compliance with the law.  English’s failure to do his job harmed Senator Jorgenson as much as it did Steve Vick.

Both Senator Jorgenson and Steve Vick are correct.  Jorgenson quite rightly insists that the law be enforced as written, not as Dan English would wish it to be or as English interprets it. Vick tried to comply with the law, but his diligent effort was thwarted by Dan English and his staff.

Both Steve Vick and Senator Jorgenson have been harmed by Dan English and his lackadaisical administration and wrong interpretation of Idaho election law.   It would be very easy to say that Vick’s candidacy should be allowed, based on Vick’s having tried to do everything lawfully.  But the same can be said for Senator Jorgenson’s objection to Vick’s filing.  Is Senator Jorgenson to be penalized now because Vick’s right to re-register  in 2006 as an elector was wrongly denied by English and his staff?

Maybe the Jorgenson – Vick controversy will be the wake-up call for Idaho’s legislature to undertake a serious review of Idaho’s election laws and their administration.  The legislature should now be realizing that its blind reliance on Secretary of State Ben Ysursa for that has been sadly misplaced.  The people of Kootenai County should also be recognizing that our trust and confidence in County Clerk Dan English has been equally misplaced.

15 Comments

  1. I’m confused. How exactly would English & his crew deny anyone who lives here and presents creds the right to vote? Were they arguing that Vick still lived in Montana?

    Perhaps Vick should have lived in Canada instead. At least then English would allow him to vote here.

    Comment by Dan — April 18, 2010 @ 6:39 pm

  2. Dan,

    That’s exactly the point. Assuming Vick showed up to register and had a valid photo ID and proof of residence (utility bill), all English & Crew needed to do was register him as if he had never lived in Idaho. His former residency in Idaho for voting purposes was terminated when he registered in Montana. So when Vick went to register in 2006 in Idaho, the Elections Office staff could and should have called Montana, verified that he had registered to vote there when he first moved to Montana, and then registered him in Idaho. Instead, English’s elections staff apparently treated Vick’s voting residency as if he had never left Idaho. Vick should have been allowed to register in Kootenai County in 2006.

    Because English & Crew unlawfully deprived him of that, through no fault of Vick, he shouldn’t have been eligible to vote in Idaho since he registered in Montana. If he wasn’t eligible to vote in Idaho, he wasn’t eligible to file a declaration of candidacy for an Idaho office. This is not some meaningless technicality; residency requirements are the law. English was and is sworn to uphold that law, and he failed to do it.

    This wrongly hurts Jorgenson, too. His candidacy for reelection will be affected by the decision in Vick’s eligibility. Jorgenson is right to raise the issue.

    Comment by Bill — April 18, 2010 @ 7:12 pm

  3. If Vick wasn’t registered to vote in Idaho, then how come the county’s records from 2008 show that he voted in both the primary and general election? Again, more questions for Dan English.

    Comment by Dan — April 18, 2010 @ 9:00 pm

  4. Dan English what a great guy, Dan English I totally respect what you give back to the community in the form of the non-profits you have started and labored over throughout the years what a difference maker. In fact, I think it would be for the great of the County if you started doing that work on a full time basis. It seems that as county clerk you have become complacent, your comfortable, your office is in trouble, its time for change and not in the Obama way either. Voters of the county do us all a favor, release this man so that he can to other works.

    Comment by WannaBe JD — April 19, 2010 @ 8:05 am

  5. Mr. Vick wasn’t denied the right to register. When he went to re-register, he was told that it wasn’t necessary because he was already registered. He was never removed from the KC voter rolls. Sen. Jorgenson contends that the current registration, under Idaho law, is invalid because Mr. Vick left the state and registered to vote in Montana. (Are you still with me?) At that point, his Idaho voter registration should have been removed. It was not, so the registration now on the rolls is in-valid (under the law). Montana did not inform Idaho that Mr. Vick was a Montana voter, nor did Mr. Vick. It gets cloudy on that point. What should have happened was, Mr. Vick should have been allowed to re-register, after the old registration was removed, when he appeared and explained that he had been a registered voter in Montana. Whew!

    Comment by rochereau — April 19, 2010 @ 8:34 am

  6. rochereau,

    He was denied the right to re-register. That re-registration was important, because by law his previous Idaho registration was invalidated when he registered in Montana. Vick sought to re-register correctly when he returned to Idaho, and that request was denied. Denying his request to re-register did not legalize and restore the formerly invalidated Idaho registration; it could not. The Kootenai County Clerk’s failure to administratively recognize and process Vick’s Idaho voter registration does not change the fact that when he registered in Montana, his Idaho voter registration was invalidated in law. When he returned to Idaho from Montana, the only appropriate action for the Kootenai County Clerk (assuming all qualifications were met) was to register Vick as he would any new and qualified voter seeking registration in Idaho.

    Assuming the newspaper reported the facts correctly and completely, Vick should have been allowed to re-register in 2006 upon his return to Idaho. That also assumes he had met all the Idaho requirements to allow it.

    Kootenai County Elections could have called Lewis & Clark County Elections to verify that Vick had registered in Montana. That registration, assuming it occurred as reported, immediately invalidated his earlier Idaho registration. While Lewis & Clark County may not have notified Idaho of Vick’s registration in Montana, Vick did when he returned to Idaho. Yet it appears that Kootenai County Elections violated Idaho election law by not invalidating Vick’s previous Idaho registration and allowing him to re-register.

    It’s confusing.

    Comment by Bill — April 19, 2010 @ 8:48 am

  7. Vick complied with Idaho Code 34-407 when he appeared at the official registrar’s office personally and requested to register to vote upon his return from Montana. The statute does not require that the voter complete a registration form, but it does require the county official to register the voter. The burden is on the registrar, not on the voter. In this case, the voter should not be penalized, having complied with the statute, due to the failure of the registrar. If the voter is penalized due to the failure of the registrar, then there’s probably a violation of the voter’s voting rights under federal law.

    Comment by samasterson — April 19, 2010 @ 12:09 pm

  8. samasterson,

    Thank you for registering and for leaving the comment. As you noted, the burden was on the registrar to perform the duties of his/her office.

    Any suggestions how this can be resolved without further harm to either Vick or Jorgenson while still upholding Idaho’s election law?

    Comment by Bill — April 19, 2010 @ 12:15 pm

  9. Well, this certainly shouldn’t affect Vick’s qualifications to run for the State Senate. Idaho Code 34-614 reads in its entirety: “ELECTION OF STATE REPRESENTATIVES AND SENATORS — QUALIFICATIONS. (1) At the general election, 1972, and every alternate year thereafter, there shall be elected in each legislative district such representatives and senators as they may be severally entitled. (2) No person shall be elected to the office of representative or senator unless he shall have attained the age of twenty-one (21) years at the time of the general election, is a citizen of the United States and shall have resided within the legislative district one (1) year next preceding the general election at which he offers his candidacy. (3) Each candidate shall file his declaration of candidacy with the secretary of state. (4) Each candidate who files a declaration of candidacy shall at the same time pay a filing fee of thirty dollars ($30.00) which shall be deposited in the general fund.”

    I don’t see any requirement in the statute that Vick be a qualified elector (voter). Jorgensen is blowing smoke.

    Comment by samasterson — April 19, 2010 @ 12:38 pm

  10. Isn’t that what I said Bill…:-)

    Hi samasterson! Welcome. Question, If a person isn’t a qualified voter when running for office, how can he be qualified (to run) for office?

    Comment by rochereau — April 19, 2010 @ 12:43 pm

  11. Thanks for the welcome. There is a distinction between being qualified and being registered. It seems to me that no one is questioning Vick’s qualification as a voter, only whether he was properly registered. This distinction seems to be lost on Jorgensen – maybe its too subtle for him.

    Comment by samasterson — April 19, 2010 @ 1:01 pm

  12. Folks Vick really screwed up. If he would have moved to Canada there would not be an issue at all according to the County Clerk or Secretary of State. Vick you need to be a little smarter next time.

    Comment by WannaBe JD — April 19, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

  13. Given Mr. English’s oddball interpretation, there is no way Mike Kennedy could have ran for elected office in Coeur d’Alene as prior to his candidacy he had never been a registered voter in the city.

    Comment by Dan — April 19, 2010 @ 1:58 pm

  14. smasterson,

    That was a very good catch! Thank you. It would be interesting to research the statute to see why there is no requirement that a candidate under IC 34-614 be a qualified elector.

    If you’ve done that research, can you comment on it?

    Anyway, thanks again for commenting with a really good observation.

    Comment by Bill — April 19, 2010 @ 1:59 pm

  15. All elected officials in Idaho must be “an elector”. It’s in the Idaho Constitution in various Articles.

    Comment by Gary Ingram — April 19, 2010 @ 9:06 pm

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