GOP concerned about Franklin County voters

Democratic Franklin County Auditor Zona Lenhart and Republican Party officials traded charges Tuesday over county voters not getting ballots.

Republican Party officials held a conference call to claim Lenhart had delayed sending notices to voters telling them what to do if their ballot hadn't arrived yet.

Lenhart, who's running for re-election, expressed irritation that she wasn't invited to participate in the conference call, and accused Republicans of playing politics.

Rep. Susan Fagan, R-Pullman, who represents the 9th Legislative District that includes Adams and north Franklin counties, said she was concerned about where the missing ballots went. She said they could threaten the integrity of the election because many races are expected to be close.

"It wasn't very long ago that a small number of ballots like this had statewide implication," said Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, referring to the 2004 governor's race that required two recounts.

Luke Esser, state Republican Party chairman, said the party had requested a list of voters who requested a replacement ballot, but Lenhart's office had not responded.

Lenhart, however, said she's never refused to provide a list. She said the request came late last week, and her office was sending the list to a party officialTuesday.

Lenhart said her office received requests for 75 replacement ballots early last week, which was unusual. She said her staff determined the ballots were delivered to the post office, so some might just be delayed in the mail and voters who were sent replacement ballots could receive both ballots.

Rep. Terry Nealey, R-Dayton, who represents the 16th Legislative District that includes parts of Benton and Franklin counties, said he also was concerned some people might have received the wrong ballot.

Esser said one voter reported receiving a ballot for the wrong legislative district, but Lenhart said her office had not received a single call from a voter who had received the wrong ballot.

Lenhart said her office has done due diligence. Replacement ballots were sent to those who called, and county voters probably received a postcard Tuesday telling them what to do if they had not received a ballot.

Lenhart said she focuses on doing her job, not playing politics. "We want clean elections and we've had clean elections," she said.

She said her staff is continuing to check with voters who requested replacement ballots. Requests coming now are the normal ones the office receives. She said examples of those requests are from voters who spilled coffee on their ballot or lost it.

State Elections Director Nick Handy told The Associated Press that while Franklin County's replacement numbers are larger than normal, "every county has a certain number of replacement ballots."

"It's just part of the process," he said.

The county mailed 25,349 ballots, and 6,949 had been returned as of Tuesday.

Franklin County voters who have not received their ballots should call the auditor's office at 545-3538.

Benton County voters can call 786-5618 or 736-3085 or go to www.bentonelections.com.