Many convicted felons voted illegally in Washington state’s 2004 election, and officials never noticed because of serious flaws in the system for tracking them, the Seattle Times reports. The Times, reviewing felony convictions as far back as 1997, identified 129 felons in two counties who were recorded as having voted in the Nov. 2 election. Another 23 likely voted. Either the counties failed to flag or purge felons on the voter rolls as required by state law, or they allowed them to register without checking their status. Some were even mailed absentee ballots and returned them unchallenged.
The findings will add to a contentious debate over whether Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire’s 129-vote victory was legitimate. Republicans filed suit Jan. 7 arguing that the election was illegitimate and should be ified. Washington prohibits felons from voting until they have met all court-imposed obligations including community service and the payment of restitution and fines. If they’ve met all their obligations at the end of their supervision by the Department of Corrections, felons are supposed to be issued a “certificate of discharge,” which restores their right to vote. Jesse Shay Jr., a former National Goard sergeant, was convicted of felony harassment in 2003 for making death threats to neighbors who owed $140 to his stepchildren. He served 10 days in jail, but later got an absentee balot. His vote for Gregoire was illegal because he hadn’t had his voting rights restored because of outstanding court debts.