Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Mar 19 2007

 Olympia… Secretary of State  Sam Reed and Attorney General Rob McKenna announced today a settlement has been reached in the federal court lawsuit filed by the Brennan Center for Justice in New York City.

The Secretary of State’s Office was sued in May 2006 for requiring that the identity of each voter registration applicant be verified before a person can become a registered voter and vote, as outlined in Washington State law.

“We have insisted throughout this case that no ballots should be accepted from a newly registered voter until an acceptable form of identification has been provided,” said Secretary of State Sam Reed. “The 2000 Presidential election highlighted the need for voter identification when dogs were found on the nation’s voter rolls. I am pleased the settlement reached in this case requires that only voters who have proven their identity may vote.”

The settlement was reached between the Office of the Secretary of State and plaintiff organizations represented by the Brennan Center for Justice and local counsel. The settlement allows for voter registration applications that fail to match data on file with the Department of Licensing or the Social Security Administration to be provisionally registered. The provisional registrations are flagged advising that a ballot from that voter may not be counted until an acceptable form of identification is provided.

“The Attorney General’s Office is proud to have been able to help the Secretary of State bring this case to a resolution that respects voters’ rights while preserving the integrity and accountability of our elections system,” said Attorney General Rob McKenna. "Congratulations to our attorneys, Deputy Solicitors General Jim Pharris and Jeff Even and Special Assistant Attorney General for Government Accountability Greg Overstreet, for their work on this case."


Prior to the lawsuit, state law required election workers to contact the voter registration applicant and request clarifying information. If the voter did not respond within 45 days, the statute required that the registration application be rejected, although the voter was free to submit another application with new information.

In August 2006, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington ruled that, under federal law, the state may not reject a voter registration application because the information on the form does not match information on file with the Department of Licensing or the Social Security Administration. Information may not match for a variety of reasons, including data entry errors by the voter, the state or the Social Security Administration.

Under the terms of the settlement, the state will provisionally register each of these voters, but will not count the ballot until proper identification is provided. This impacts a very small portion of the registered voters in the state, less than one percent.

A provisionally registered person who votes at the polls will be required to provide identification prior to voting, and a mail ballot will be held until the voter provides identification. When the voter is provisionally registered, election administrators contact the voter to request additional identification.

View the full settlement

For more information contact:  
Joanie Deutsch, Acting Communications Director, Secretary of State's Office, (360) 902-4173
Janelle Guthrie, Communications Director, Attorney General's Office, (360) 586-0725