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Questions About Shooting Suspect's Citizenship Prompt Voter Verification Proposal

Campaign photos
Washington's Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman, left, and Democratic challenger, former Seattle City Councilmember Tina Podlodowski

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman Friday introduced a proposal that would allow election officials to verify the citizenship of voters in the state. It comes in response to questions about whether the suspect in a recent shooting near Seattle voted legally.

Wyman is running for re-election, but she said that has nothing to do with her proposal.

“This isn’t candidate Kim Wyman coming up with an idea. This is not Republican Kim Wyman coming up with an idea,” Wyman said. “This is election administrators who are Democrats, Republicans and non-partisans who do the work and are having legitimate questions asked of them.”

Those questions go something like this:

“How can this happen when it’s a requirement to vote that you’re a US citizen and now you’re telling me you can’t check for it?”

Those administrators can’t legally verify voters’ citizenship. But that could change with this proposal, which also requires proof of citizenship when someone applies for a driver’s license.

Wyman’s proposal came the week after suspect Arcan Cetin confessed to fatally shooting five people at a Burlington mall. Early media reports questioned his citizenship, but federal officials cited in follow-up reports said he is a naturalized U.S. citizen. Cetin registered to vote in Washington in 2014.

Wyman said it’s still unclear to her if he voted legally in three elections.

“That’s the million-dollar question,” Wyman said. “There’s no statute that allows us or gives us the authority to verify his citizenship.”

Tina Podlodowski, Wyman’s opponent in this year’s Secretary of state race, argued that Wyman is merely politicizing what Podlowdowski calls a “non-issue.”

“I’m appalled by what Secretary Wyman did today,” she said. “All [Wyman] did was show her true partisan Republican colors in an effort to score political points on voting access issues [and] here she is taking a tragedy like the shooting at the Burlington mall and trying to use it for political gain.”

“Is there voter fraud in Washington state?” Podlowdowski asked rhetorically. “is the system not working, do we have non-citizens voting here in Washington state?”

Podlowdowski called it a “myth” that non-citizens are voting in state elections.

“There is no issue around voter fraud,” Podlowdowski said of the state’s election system.

If Wyman’s proposal passes in the legislature and is signed into law, Washington would join 47 other states that require so-called REAL IDs, which are required by the federal government for defined “official purposes.”