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.