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Poll violations investigated

"The Port Orchard Police Department wrapped up an investigation Nov. 15 of election law violations members of the Kitsap County Republican Party leveled against the Kitsap County Auditor's office regarding access and handling of sealed envelopes containing absentee ballots.County GOP Chairman Karl Duff reported the alleged violations to Port Orchard Police Chief Alan Towsend, who assigned a detective to follow up on the potential violations.We felt that the levels of these infractions was to turn it over to people with an independent fact-finding process, Duff said.Information gathered through interviews with auditor's office personnel and witnesses was sent to the Pierce County Prosecutor's Office for review to avoid a conflict of interest. The Kitsap County Prosecutor's Office represents the Auditor's Office in court.Duff told Townsend that on Nov. 9, a Kitsap County Republican Party executive board member saw two men from the Democratic party handling absentee ballots outside the ballot processing room at Givens Community Center in Port Orchard.The board member alleged the Auditor's Office refused to allow a Republican observer into the room because that person had not completed a training class, but then allowed the two, untrained Democrats to look over the envelopes.The second violation occurred Nov. 11, Duff said, when another executive board member went to the Givens Community Center and found Auditor's Office employees working on special ballots without observers.Kitsap County Auditor Karen Flynn said Duff was mistaken in his complaints.I believe the complaint is completely erroneous and is a partisan-based compaint. My office has been open and accessible to the Republican Party through this whole process, she said.With regard to Duff's accusation that unsigned absentee ballots and ballot containers were provided to what he called operatives of the Democrat Party, Flynn said the opportunity to gather names from absentee ballots was afforded to both parties.According to a police report, Flynn said Slade Gorton's campaign called to request a list of absentee ballot voters. She said that information was not available in list form, but members of the Republican Party could come in and look at the envelopes to copy names.The men from the Democratic Party overheard the telephone conversation and requested to do the same that day, Friday, Nov. 10. Members of the Republican Party opted to wait until Monday, Nov. 13.Duff said he had not heard there was a call from the Gorton campaign. I don't believe it, he said, adding the Republican party had faxed a request to view the envelopes.To make things easier for the Republican Party, Flynn said she photocopied the envelopes to expedite the process for the people coming in Monday. She said they called later to thank her for making copies, which saved them from having to copy some 900 names.Duff confirmed that members of the Republican Party had picked up the photocopied names and thanked the Auditor's Office for them.In response to Duff's accusation that there were auditor's office personnel working over the weekend - after KCRP members had been told the office would be closed - Flynn said people working extra hours is nothing unusual. They were just doing administrative election work, she said. Because the auditor's office has to process about 2,000 special ballots - cast by people who live in another county, for example, or those who received an absentee ballot in the mail but went to the box to vote - some auditor's office employees worked during the weekend to make the deadline.Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge warned against jumping to conclusions about the alleged violations. Even if there was a finding that there were some irregularities, that doesn't necessarily mean a crime was committed, he said. "

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