In a finding that placed the final exclamation point on what had been a contentious hearing over a recent voter-registration challenge, Thurston County Auditor Mary Hall on Friday, Sept. 4, determined that county commissioner candidate C Davis did not, in fact, reside at the address he'd listed on his voter registration.
State law allowed Davis to either update his address or appeal the decision to Superior Court. He chose the former. Auditor's Office records indicate his updated address is pending and awaiting processing.
In an email to the Nisqually Valley News on Friday, Davis seemed resigned to Hall's decision, but was nevertheless still irked by the whole process.
“There are no surprises here,” he wrote, noting as he had at his recent voter registration hearing that he never claimed to live at his previous voter-registration address of 1211 4th Ave. E. near the cross streets of 4th Avenue and Puget Street.
That non-traditional address, he contended, had been assigned to him in 2018 by the auditor's office after he had complained that his election ballots were not being delivered to his longtime mail box in west Olympia.
“The hearing was very biased, as I was instructed to focus on the issue of the assigned address and not go off on tangents,” Davis added. “Mr Pluto, I mean Saturn, on the other hand, spent 20 minutes with nonsense conspiracy theories …
“So, to make the powers that be happy, I have updated the address,” said Davis, who is running against Carolina Mejia for Thurston County Commissioner District No. 1 in the November general election.
Auditor's Office records indicated this week that Davis had updated his voter-registration address to 1263 Bigelow Ave. N.E. in Olympia.
Hall rendered her decision a week after the Aug. 27 hearing on the voter-registration challenge against Davis.
The dispute was precipitated by Socialist Party member Andrew Saturn — a 2018 candidate for Public Utilities District 1 commissioner — who filed the challenge form with Hall on Aug. 20 alleging that Davis did not reside at the address under which he was registered to vote.
Saturn had contended in his voter registration challenge that the address on 4th Ave. East that Davis had referenced is an office building with 10 offices, two conference rooms, a kitchen and two bathrooms — but no residential living space. The current occupants, he added, are entirely business related.
“There is no way ‘C Davis’ lives at this address,” Saturn wrote in a narrative accompanying his challenge form.
In an email to the NVN on Sunday, Sept. 6, Saturn — to whom Davis on occasion has called Mr. Pluto — expressed satisfaction with Hall's decision.
“I'm very pleased that Mary Hall had the evidence she needed and was able to act on a very obvious case of a Republican candidate committing voter registration fraud,” he wrote.
He also was gratified that a judge in a Friday Superior Court hearing tossed a lawsuit against Mejia brought by Olympia political activist Jon Pettit. Pettit had contended that Mejia was either not a U.S. citizen or that she had registered to vote before she was naturalized.
“Considering the endorsements and un-endorsements in the race and all of the very thorough media coverage, I don't believe that C Davis will win in November,” Saturn wrote. “I hope Mr. Davis is able to figure out where he lives and re-register to vote.”
In a prepared statement on Friday, Hall elaborated a bit on her decision: “The Auditor’s authority in this voter registration challenge is limited to only whether a voter resides at the location listed on the voter registration card.
“My decision only relates to his voter registration address and does not extend any further. It’s important all voters register with the actual address where they reside so they receive the correct precinct ballot.”
In the Zoom-video administrative hearing on Aug. 27, Davis admitted that he owns a duplex at 1263 Bigelow Ave. N.E. and periodically stayed there but didn't consider it his permanent address.
In a more extensive written summary of her decision Friday, Hall wrote that C Davis “conceded his hearing testimony that he does not live at the address on his registration card, because that was an address the Auditor's Office used for the purpose of his non-traditional residency.
“C Davis, however, after continued questioning about where he does reside was not able to describe 'an identifiable location' that he considered his non-traditional residence.
“In contrast,” Hall added, “the testimony and evidence provided by Mr. Saturn support a finding that C Davis more likely than not lives at the 1263 Bigelow Ave. address.”
Hall added that “public records from the Thurston County Assessor's Office confirm that Davis owns the Bigelow Avenue duplex and has an active senior exemption from certain taxes.”
She noted that to receive those exemptions, the owner “must own the property, and it must be the principal place of residence.”
So the question, Hall ultimately wrote, is whether Davis — who in 2018 gave the Auditor's Office the cross streets of 4th Avenue and Puget Street to establish his non-traditional voting address — actually spent the majority of his time there or at another address. The 4th Avenue and Puget Street intersection corresponded to the precinct mailing address of 1211 4th Ave. E. that Saturn originally referenced in his challenge.
After reviewing the evidence, Hall wrote that “it is highly probable that C Davis's duplex is his residence for purposes of voter registration, and this residence is presumed to continue.
“C Davis has not provided credible testimony that he has established a new residence at the cross streets of 4th Avenue and Puget Street, in fact, or have a present intention to make those cross streets his home.”
Given the evidence she had reviewed, Hall concluded that “the challenged voter's registration is improper, and the challenge to C Davis's voter registration is affirmed.”
She added her decision was final subject only to Superior Court review.