Despite claims of thousands, here’s how many improper voter registrations Skagit County Elections has found

In September, Skagit County Republicans filed 27 voter registration challenges claiming voters did not live at the addresses where the ballots are mailed.

By Chris Ingalls

On October 20, 2023

SKAGIT COUNTY, Wash. — Skagit County Elections officials have upheld eight voter registration challenges filed by the county Republican party, despite the claim that the county’s voter rolls included many more improper voter registrations.

In September, Skagit County Republicans filed 27 voter registration challenges claiming that voters did not live at the addresses where their ballots are mailed.

In addition to the eight sustained cases, the elections board denied eight challenges. The rest are pending or were withdrawn.

The results are a far cry from the hundreds or even thousands of voter “anomalies” that Republicans claimed to uncover in Skagit County two years ago.

“Many of these anomalies are potential or real phantom voters (voters who do not exist),” wrote Republican Party Chairman Bill Bruch in a report to Skagit County Elections on Sept. 30, 2021. Bruch said that citizen volunteers had identified 1,530 voter anomalies in the county by reviewing public records and knocking “on over 3,000 Skagit County registered voters’ doors” to confirm their residential addresses. 

In an email Friday, Bruch told KING 5 that “we are finding the best way for ‘registered voters’ who should not be on the rolls to be legally removed, is by filing voter registration challenges per RCW 29A.08.810.” Bruch said his organization is “just beginning and will be filing more voter registration challenges in the near future.”

Approximately 18 hearings have been held so far, Bruch said, adding that the next round of hearings are set for 1 p.m. Monday, Oct. 23, at the Skagit County Elections office. 

Washington law allows any citizen to formally challenge a voter’s registration. The burden is on the challenger to provide evidence that the voter does not reside at the address where they are registered. The Republican party’s successful challenges often included testimony about visits to the address, a signed affidavit from the current resident stating that the voter does not live there, and documentation showing that the voter may live elsewhere.

As the KING 5 Investigators previously reported, citizens groups in several counties have filed petitions to challenge specific voter registrations. In Thurston County, the organizer of the Voter Research Project said he is pleased with his organization’s five sustained challenges so far. Four other challenges were denied, and more than a dozen other cases are pending before the election board.

“I would say that we’re just getting started,” said organizer John Clabaugh. “We have hundreds of cases that we’re looking at right now.”

Skagit County has been a hotbed of wild election fraud claims, many of them driven by the Republican Party chairman. For example, in a spreadsheet submitted to Skagit County Elections on June 24, 2022, Bill Bruch claimed volunteers uncovered 14 ballots that were cast by voters who died before ballots were mailed. Using online obituaries and county election records, KING 5 determined that all 14 voters died soon after the election — and there was no evidence that their ballots had been falsified.

In response to the story published Oct. 30, 2022, Bruch said he found the reporting “lacked the proper information, took things out of context and misrepresented the facts.” 

Elizabeth Schreurs, whose late husband was one of the deceased voters listed in Bruch’s report, said her husband Jerry cast his ballot for a February special election before he died. 

“He would just be rolling over in his grave,” said Schreurs.

KING 5’s reporting did include a small number of cases of voter fraud that were identified by local elections offices. Typically, spouses vote on a behalf of a loved one who recently died. In some counties, authorities prosecute these cases while in others, like King County, the household receives a warning letter from the prosecutor’s office on a first offense.

KING 5’s “Fraud Crusade” reports did not find any instances of vote fraud uncovered by Voter Research Project efforts in several Washington counties. 

Skagit County Auditor Sandy Perkins said she is worried about the additional staff costs for research and hearings related to voter registration challenges, which in years past were uncommon. Each case requires an investigation and a hearing that ties up Perkins and three employees in her small office.

“This is expensive,” Perkins said, “and we’ve found no fraud.”

This piece was republished from KING 5 News.

Leave a Comment