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Senator questions opponent's eligibility

by Alecia Warren
| April 17, 2010 9:00 PM

An Idaho senator filed a complaint with the Secretary of State's office this week contending that his opponent isn't qualified to run.

Although the complaint was quickly contradicted, Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, insists that an oversight has occurred and Steven Vick shouldn't be allowed to continue as a candidate for the District 3 seat.

"There's a campaign side to this, but there's also an election issue," Jorgenson said Friday. "Where does the city and the county and the state really come down on these issues?"

Jorgenson filed an official complaint with Secretary of State Ben Ysursa on Tuesday stating that Vick, his Republican challenger in the May 25 primary, isn't a registered voter in Idaho.

The complaint pointed out that Vick, who first moved to Idaho in 2004, had moved to Montana for three months in 2006, during which time he registered to vote and ran for office in Lewis and Clark County.

Under Idaho law, individuals can't maintain voting rights here if they register in another state.

"When you move out of the state and take up residency and vote in another state, it (your Idaho registration) is supposed to be canceled," Jorgenson said. "You have to re-register (after moving back to the state)."

Vick said when he moved back to Kootenai County later in 2006, he went to the Elections Office to do just that.

But Vick was told that his registration was still valid.

"They said I didn't need to re-register," he said.

Vick added that he voted in the 2008 primary and general elections without trouble.

"I miss very few elections," he said.

Carrie Phillips, elections supervisor for Kootenai County, said the county was never notified that Vick had left the state.

"We have to be notified either by another state or the voter himself before we can make that change," Phillips said.

Staff at Lewis and Clark County Elections said the department doesn't notify other counties and districts to cancel individuals' previous registrations when new residents sign up to vote there.

Kootenai County does, however, Phillips said, and she believes that must have been the case with Vick.

"I have confirmed that his registration is inactive in Lewis and Clark County," she said.

Phillips had already notified the Idaho Secretary of State's office on Friday that Vick is a registered voter, she said.

"He is registered to vote in Kootenai County," she said.

Vick said he had thought he was going to live permanently in Montana in 2006 when he ran in a primary election for Public Service Commission, which he lost. For family reasons, Vick said, he returned to Idaho that year.

Vick doesn't consider his voter registration an issue, he said.

"I've always believed when people can't attack someone based on his record, they attack on his character," he said. "I guess that must be what he (Jorgenson) is trying to do."

But Jorgenson said it isn't right that Vick is running when he shouldn't be registered.

"If he's not a valid elector, I'm going to spend $25,000 to $30,000 on an election I shouldn't have to spend," he said of advertising costs in the campaign against his opponent.

He and his attorney are looking into how to obtain a judicial order to declare Vick unqualified to be on the ballot, Jorgenson said.

"Unless Mr. Vick chooses to resign," he added.

Idaho law requires that state senate and representative candidates be registered voters in their counties or districts for at least a year preceding election.

Vick, a Dalton Gardens resident who owns a home renovation business, served four consecutive terms in the Montana House of Representatives from 1995 to 2002.

He said he has no qualms about Jorgenson investigating his voter registration.

"It's a free country, and he's able to do what he wants," Vick said. "I hope we can run a race on the issues and not get into this sort of thing."

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