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Voting goes to the dogs literally
Duncan cannot read a voter's pamphlet or sign his name.
He cannot discuss pressing issues with his neighbors or state representatives.
Duncan is also a dog.
None of this, however, stopped him from becoming a Washington state voter.
Duncan's owner, Federal Way resident Jane Balogh, is concerned about voter fraud.
She believes acquiring a voter's registration card to vote in Washington state elections is too easy. She wrote state lawmakers several times, questioning why it was so easy to vote in Washington state, she said.
When she received no response from state representatives, Balogh decided to demonstrate her point by registering Duncan to vote via absentee ballot.
In true doggie fashion, Duncan signed the ballot with his paw print.
"I did this because I am disenfranchised with my state representatives," said Balogh, who was charged earlier this month with a misdemeanor crime for the stunt.
On three separate occasions, Duncan has received a voter's registration card. Each time he received a ballot, Balogh cast it with the word "void" written across it. In the state's primary Sept. 19, 2006, the following Nov. 6 general elections and Federal Way's May 15, 2007, school district bond levy, Balogh sent in Duncan's ballots with the bubbles unmarked.
Washington state is so concerned with being politically correct that it is interfering with the state's ability to conduct an accurate election, Balogh said. With the state's current voting requirements, people who do not reside in the state or country can vote, she said.
"It is absolutely ridiculous spending a gazillion dollars (for security) at airports when our borders are open and documents can be falsified," she said.
Paw print signature
After the primary election, Balogh said she wrote nine state representatives to tell them what she had done and how easy it was.
She received two letters in response.
A letter from U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, reminded Balogh that she had informed the wrong district of her actions.
The other letter came from U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Tacoma, who did not address the registering of Duncan, but instead noted that requiring valid Washington state identification to vote would make it harder for the elderly and poor to partake in the voting system, Balogh said.
The lack of a detailed response to Balogh's questions further frustrated her. When Duncan's registration card for the general election came in the mail, once again Balogh sent it in, she said.
After she submitted the second absentee ballot, Balogh got a call from a King County official requesting to speak to Duncan.
A county official was concerned that Duncan's signature was not valid, and told Balogh the signature was ineligible.
Balogh contested that the paw print at the bottom of the absentee ballot was completely valid, given that Duncan was a dog. The caller said she would have someone follow up with Balogh and Duncan, but neither received another call about the issue, Balogh said.
Then, Balogh received a visit from a King County prosecutor and detective on June 8. Both were charming, asked to meet Duncan and even chuckled a bit about what Balogh had done, she said.
"I thought they were going to give me a slap on the wrist and say, hey, I'm sorry our system is so skewed," Balogh said.
Instead, Balogh was charged with making a false or misleading statement to a public servant. This is a misdemeanor crime. If Balogh had failed to write "void" across the ballots, she could have faced a felony charge.
Her arraignment date was set for June 26, but Balogh's attorney has filed for an extension. Balogh could face a fine of $250 or 10 hours of community service.
Exposing a flaw?
Balogh is being penalized for catching a mistake in the state's voting system, said her daughter Kathi Taylor of Sumner. Both knew there could be legal consequences for Balogh's actions, but Taylor encouraged her mother to submit the ballots and demonstrate her point.
Technically, Duncan meets the state's requirements to vote, she said.
Balogh votes as an independent in the state's elections, and her actions had nothing to do with identifying with a political party, she said. If just one politician had responded to her concerns and agreed to look into the issue, Balogh would not have registered Duncan to vote, she said.
"It has to do with the fact that you could turn the tides on an election," she said.
After her arraignment, Balogh will continue questioning her state representatives and trying to increase awareness about Washington state voting requirements, she said. However, she will do so in a way that is legal and will refrain from registering either of her other two dogs to vote, she said.
"If you elect someone, they are supposed to represent us (the voters)," Balogh said. "The least they could do is respond to our concerns on all issues."
Contact Jacinda Howard at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (253) 925-5565.
To vote in Washington state, one must be a legal citizen of the United States and a Washington resident and must be at least 18 years old with proof of identification.
However, this last requirement is too relaxed, Federal Way resident Jane Balogh said.
One does not need a state driver's license, identification card or Social Security number to register to vote. Instead, people may provide one of the following documents:
Valid tribal identification from a recognized American Indian tribe in Washington state.
A copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, government document or a current paycheck bearing the voter's name and address, according to the secretary of state's Web site, www.secstate.wa.gov/elections/register.aspx.
In her dog Duncan's case, all Balogh had to do was call her phone company, Qwest, and request it place Duncan on her phone bill. Then she sent this document to King County's Records, Elections and Licensing Services Division as proof that Duncan resided in Washington state and was a legal citizen, she said.
The requirements are all connected, and if a person can somehow provide proof of identification, proving to be a citizen of the United States and resident of Washington is easier to do, Balogh said.
"I don't think anyone has looked into how easy it is to vote (in Washington state)," Balogh said.
To learn more or register to vote, visit the Washington Secretary of State Web site at www.secstate.wa.gov.