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Invalid ballots common in Kitsap

Almost one-third of the 9,000 presidential primary ballots already cast in Kitsap are invalid because they did not indicate a party preference, according to County Auditor Karen Flynn.

“This is a primary, and primaries belong to the parties,” Flynn said. “If a voter does not select one party or another, their ballot will not be counted.”

Ballots were mailed out last week for the Feb. 19 primary. Voters must choose a party and vote for one of eight Democrats or Republicans on the ballot — even though only six of the 16 names listed are still actively campaigning.

While the percentage of invalid ballots is high, the Auditor’s Office will not contact voters unless they failed to sign the ballot. If the outside is signed with no party preference, the ballot will not be opened.

But a voter who failed to select a party isn’t completely out of luck. The ballots are held, and voters can contact the Auditor to see if theirs has been disqualified.

If so, they can visit the Auditor’s Office in Port Orchard and make the party selection at that time.

Since the oaths were written by the respective parties, the Democratic and Republican Party oaths differ. The Democrats require affirming “that I consider myself a DEMOCRAT and I will not participate in the nomination process of any other political party for the 2008 election.”

The Republicans require more of a commitment than “I am a member of the Republican Party.” 

This caught the attention of Vivian Henderson, Port Orchard, who usually leans Republican but said she does not want to declare “membership” in a political party.

That Flynn calls the oath a more of an indication of loyalty than an actual membership requirement does not satisfy Henderson.

“I am not going to say I belong to a party when I do not belong,” Henderson said. “So I will probably vote for a Democrat. Got any suggestions?”

Kitsap County Republican Chairman Jack Hamilton acknowledges the difference in the wording, saying it reflects a difference between the two parties. He said that a voter could sign the oath without ever joining the GOP and become a Republican on the spot.

But it doesn’t end there.

“You can sign the oath, but you then have a moral obligation,” he said. “After you sign the next thing you do will be to go online to a Web site and find out exactly what you need to do to satisfy that obligation. Usually that involves signing up somewhere and sending in a few shekels.”

To verify whether or not you checked the party box visit the Kitsap County Auditor’s office in Port Orchard or call (360) 337-7128.

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