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Von Reichbauer rips elections director; welcomes investigation

By MIKE HALLIDAY

The Mirror

Metropolitan King County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer says the county elections department’s leader has been “a major disappointment.”

Von Reichbauer, the council’s vice chairman, said Monday he was glad a commission had been formed to look into the county’s records and election department and the “slow, drip by drip of bad news out of that agency.”

Cheryl Scott, president of Group Health Cooperative before she retired, will lead the commission that includes a former Superior Court judge, a law professor, two university presidents and Oregon’s director of elections.

The commission, formed by County Executive Ron Sims, will make recommendations for improvements of the county elections system.

“This is a distinguished group of individuals with impeccable credentials and outstanding integrity,” Sims said.

Forming the commission follows last week’s salvo from the council.

Council members –– Democrats and Republicans –– called for investigations into the election department. Two Republicans called for elections director Dean Logan to resign, and letters were sent to Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed and U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, requesting investigations of last November’s general election.

Logan “should have done the honorable thing a long time ago,” von Reichbauer said.

The election department has had one embarrassing revelation after another since the election, ranging from dead people and former prisoners voting to missing ballots. On April 4, 93 absentee ballots were discovered unopened and uncounted amidst the more than half-million absentee ballots counted. Four election department employees were placed on administrative leave last week.

Logan said the missing ballots “troubled” him, as did the “carelessness that would have been involved in order for this to happen.”

Then a second error came to light when eight voters casting absentee ballots for a special election in Hospital District No. 1 reported they had received absentee packets without ballots. The election department announced it would mail a second batch of ballots to all 915 absentee voters in the district.

Sims, who appointed Logan, remains supportive of him.

“I continue to have full faith and confidence in Dean and believe the people of this county are best-served by allowing him to finish the election reforms needed,” Sims said.

Von Reichbauer’s only criticism of the investigating committee is what he perceives as a lack of technical knowledge about elections. The members are highly respected, but he believes they will undergo “a strong learning curve to understand the office and the mission of the office.”

The election department has been criticized since last fall for myriad problems and gaffes, from absentee ballots not being counted in the general election to ballots being cast under names of dead people and by convicted felons prohibited from voting.

Logan came to the department after a series of errors –– including the late mailing of absentee ballots –– in 2002 led to the resignation of his predecessor, Bob Roegner.

While the county has done a good job overall serving its citizens, von Reichbauer worries the election department’s problems are clouding the rest of the county departments’ reputations.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565, mhalliday@fedwaymirror.com

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