Scandal Erupts as Inslee Accuses GOP of Fraud Plan – Yet Dems Did Same Thing in 2010

Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Denounces GOP Ballot-Collection Effort

By Erik Smith
Washington State Wire

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee makes charge at weekend rally in Olympia.

OLYMPIA, Nov. 4.—You had to figure someone would make a wild charge on the last weekend of this year’s campaign – but the one Jay Inslee came up with in the final hours left even experienced campaign observers gasping for breath. The Democratic gubernatorial candidate is accusing the Republicans of a “deceptive and sneaky” scheme to commit voter fraud by going door-to-door to collect mail-in ballots. That’s what he said, at rallies up and down Western Washington this weekend.

What’s nutty about the charge is the fact that Democratic campaigns did exactly the same thing in 2010 – and for all anyone knows, might have been planning on doing it again this year until Inslee made an issue of it Saturday.

Republicans basically stepped up the ante this year with a somewhat more systematic ballot-chasing program than Democratic campaigns used in 2010. Instead of hitting households one by one, the Republicans are sending paid canvassers into neighborhoods with high concentrations of GOP voters – East King County, for instance. They’re targeting homes where where voter-ID efforts have identified supporters, but where the ballots have not yet been turned in, according to county elections records. Canvassers ring the bell and offer to deliver the ballots themselves, no muss, no fuss – and if voters haven’t filled them out yet, that’s O.K., they’ll wait.

GOP ‘Victory Van’ is parked in an East King County neighborhood Saturday as canvassers knock on doors.

As canvassers fan out in every direction, the Republicans have been parking their 10 “Victory Vans” at central locations, serving as a base camp – and offering a place where residents might drop off ballots themselves.

Democrats say they are shocked that Republicans would do such a thing and are accusing the GOP of a vague plan of voter fraud. It is not clear what Republicans would have to gain by interfering with delivery of ballots that presumably favor Republicans in the first place. But  other Democrats are taking the same line. A letter Friday from the state Democratic Party demands that state elections officials take action. King County executive Dow Constantine held a news conference Sunday morning in which he warned that voters should never give ballots to strangers. And a fund-raising letter from Inslee campaign manager Joby Shimomura called the practice “unprecedented, questionable, aggressive and above all, desperate. The opportunity for fraud is obvious.”

Unprecedented? Republican party officials say they got the idea from the Democrats. They’re not making it up. This reporter can say it with certainty because he is among the voters who were contacted by the Democratic ballot-chasing drive in 2010.

Stupid or Smart?

Signage directs voters to Republican drop-box location.

Inslee’s weekend attack left observers wondering if there was a clever plan at work – or whether it was just one of the dumbest attacks of all time. By denouncing the GOP effort and making a big show of it, Inslee essentially took an arrow out of the Democratic quiver and snapped it across his knee.

Speculation ran thick all weekend. Was Inslee trying to scare voters from handing ballots to Republican campaign workers? Was he looking for an argument to motivate Democrats at the grass-roots level? Was he trying to lay the groundwork for a charge of election fraud that could be employed if the election is close – as it very well may be?

Or was it a case where an uninformed candidate painted his party into a corner? Twice during this year’s campaign Inslee brought color to the faces of Democratic legislative leaders, when he denounced a school-financing plan that many in his own party favor, and when he said nothing had been done to implement lean-management techniques – even though Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire has made lean one of her top priorities.

Whatever the reason, Inslee made the Republican tactic a centerpiece of his election-eve speeches to the party faithful. At Thurston County Democratic headquarters Saturday afternoon, one of several weekend stops, Inslee told a crowd of 200 volunteers that the Democrats are “a party [that]  believes all the votes ought to be counted and everybody should be able to vote, and I think this is important right now. Let me tell you why.

“We have found out that the Republican Party has hired people to go out there and take possession, into their orange-colored vans, votes, and goodness knows what’s going to happen to them after that happens. We believe ballots are a precious thing, and we Democrats, we have got to make sure that we get out there and make sure that we encourage people to give them to the [county] auditors and the secretary of state, where they belong, not the Republican Party.”

Charge Flabbergasts Republicans

Republicans say they are flabbergasted by the charges. “Are you kidding me?” asked state Republican chairman Kirby Wilbur. “What about what they did in 2010?”

Republicans say the Dems showed up at the King County elections office two years ago with huge stacks of ballots they had collected from supporters that season. Said King County Chairwoman Lori Sotelo, “When I called [elections supervisor] Sherill Huff to tell her what we were doing, she said, can you give us a little warning when you’re going to bring them in, so it wasn’t like what they did to her in 2010? I mean, they showed up with truckfuls and vanfuls of ballots. If they are so horrified and outraged by what is happening, maybe they shouldn’t be doing it themselves.”

Washington State Wire Was Contacted

You don’t have to take party officials’ word for it. Washington State Wire can’t speak to what happened in King County, but this reporter was among those who were contacted by Democrats two years ago. As a matter of policy, this reporter makes sure that his name appears on both Democratic and Republican mailing lists, offers appropriate answers during voter-ID polls, and waits until the very last second to turn in his ballot — so as to receive every single political mailing and robocall to which he is entitled.

As he worked at home on election day 2010, this reporter got a call from the campaign of Democratic congressional candidate Denny Heck. Who was he voting for? Had he popped that ballot in the mail yet? And might the campaign send someone by to pick it up? No thanks, he said; he’d get to it. But later in the afternoon a young woman covered in Heck-for-Congress stickers rang his doorbell and repeated the offer. Again this reporter said no – the whole thing seemed a little creepy – but the visit did remind him to fill out his ballot and slip it into the mailbox in time to get it postmarked.

Heck supporters acknowledge they did a little of that in 2010 – mainly for voters who lived way out of town. Yet this reporter lives four blocks from the Olympia Post Office.

Dems Disclaim Credit

Going door to door might be the best get-out-the-vote  idea either party has had in years – perfectly adapted for the new era of by-mail voting. A record 3.9 million ballots were mailed to Washington voters this year in the state’s first entirely vote-by-mail presidential election. It used to be that parties would staff enormous phone banks on election day to remind people to go to the polls, and volunteers would shuttle the elderly to polling places. And way back in the golden age, election-day tactics involved turkey giveaways, free beer and plain old cash payments. But those old approaches just don’t work in an age when no one needs to go to the voting booth.

Now the real challenge is to get people to fill out those ballots and mail them back. That’s the beauty of going door to door, Sotelo says. People are being asked directly for their votes. Even if voters object to the offer of hand-delivery, as Washington State Wire did in 2010, a visit from canvassers often reminds voters to mail the ballots themselves. Sotelo says Democrats had an outstanding idea. “If we didn’t do it, we wouldn’t be doing our job,” she said.

Yet for some reason the Dems aren’t taking a bow. After Inslee made his fuss, state Democratic Party attorney Kevin Hamilton wrote to secretary of state Sam Reed: “This initiative is as ill-considered as it is unprecedented,” he asserted. “There is a reason why non-partisan election officials conduct our elections and the prospect of having partisan operatives collect voted ballots and return them to the elections office is chilling indeed.”

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  • lokiswife

    The Democrats had nothing they could truthfully brag about, and everything to cover up, minimize or lie about. Their only option was to smear and denigrate their opposition and keep up a stream of idiotic stories to deflect the public’s attention to things like the stinky economy, the corruption and waste in DC, the stimulus that flunked miserably, the albatross called Obamacare, Benghazy and the new wave of taxes hitting us on January 1, 2013, etc. etc.  An elderly neighbor told us that he had voted for Obama because he had heard that Romney would end Social Security. He was scared….We told him that was not true. We need an experienced businessman to run the country, not a campaigner-in-chief. How would you like him running your business?

    • SeaSlap

       How would you like Romney running your business as the predatory vulture capitalist he is?

      If you  ever get sick, or in an accident, or lose your job and find yourself burning through your savings and living without health insurance you’ll be damn glad that Obamacare is the law of the land.

      • lokiswife

        I downloaded and read the first 600 pages of Obamacare before it was voted on. I have a background in insurance and saw what a cobbled up mess Obamacare is. If it had been a high school writing project, the teacher would have flunked it.

        Romney will repeal it, take the few good points out of Obamacare and redo it as REAL insurance. If you would like to read it for yourself, it is at thomas.gov in the 2009 bills. If you don’t read it for yourself, you are only repeating what someone has told you. Read it and make your own opinion. Oh, by the way, have you seen the new taxes list on January 1, 2013 to pay for that albatross ?
        If you make 50 grand, you will pay another $4,000+ in taxes and fees for your share….that is, if you have a job!

        Romney knows how to go into a business and get rid of the fat, waste and corruption in the company so it can survive. Some of the companies were too far gone to survive and went down into bankruptcy. He couldn’t save all of them, but he did well on Home Depot, Dominos, Staples, etc.  Medicare wasted $750 BILLION by sloppy business practices, we don’t need that kind of waste.

        • Guest

           Romney is finished as a politician. Now he can go back to vulture capitalism and avoiding taxes and stashing his money in offshore banks.

          The Republican party, if it is to survive, will have to shed it’s nut case tea partiers and religious fundamentalists and start working to attract normal people.

          Can you guys really be surprised that women don’t want the government forcing them to have vaginal probes when they need an abortion? Isn’t it a conservative principle that the government should have minimal interference in citizen’s lives? How does that square with telling people who they can marry?

      • Monterey22

         unfortunately b/c of the crummy economy and high unemployment during the Obama era, many people ARE burning thru their savings. Knowing this, I presume you aren’t voting for Obama this time around

  • SeaSlap

    These kind of tactics by the GOP including the various forms of voter
    suppression they are engaging in around the country demonstrate that the
    GOP knows it can’t win an election honestly. Their ideology and
    policies are just too far outside the mainstream. Misogyny, homophobia,
    racism, bigotry,theocracy, plutocracy, and hypocrisy just isn’t the
    winning formula it once was.

    • Monterey22

       The only real voter suppression we’ve heard about in this country were those letters that went to FL republicans mailed from SEattle that tried to discourage people from voting. And simply name-calling isn’t winning you any points.

  • SeaSlap

    Ohoh! ”
    Monday evening update: Nate Silver pushes Obama’s chances above 90 percent

    And with gay marriage and pot legalization on Washington’s ballot a lot of liberals will be voting this year.

  • SeaSlap

    Here’s what doesn’t happen in other democracies: Politicians of one
    party do not set voting schedules to favor their side and harm the
    other.–David Frum-former G.W. Bush speech writer

    A strategist for Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign said on
    Monday morning that voter fraud was virtually nonexistent in the U.S.
    and yet has somehow become part of the Republican “mythology.” “I think
    that all of this stuff that has transpired over the last two years is in
    search of a solution to a problem, voting fraud, that doesn’t really
    exist when you look deeply at the question,” strategist Steve Schmidt
    said

  • SeaSlap

     Democratic officials in Arizona asked federal and state authorities late
    Sunday to investigate robocalls from Republican Jeff Flake’s Senate
    campaign that told registered Democrats to vote at the wrong polling
    locations. Brahm Resnik of Phoenix television station KPNX first
    reported on the calls on Sunday, interviewing a Democrat named Mary
    Crecco and at least six other Democratic voters who received them.

  • Monterey22

    Based on Inslee’s lame charge, why are democrats always criticizing other people for things they themselves do? Why do democrats disrespect the intelligence of the citizens so much?

  • Monterey22

     lol, Democrats are the ones who forced mail-in ballots on all of King County. Now they complain that—horrors—the republicans might try to actually encourage  their supporters to return their ballots? When republicans start using the same tactics that democrats are using, suddenly it’s a bad idea.

    Give it a rest, dems. You are getting sillier and sillier.

    • Guest

       What’s wrong with using the mail carrier?