Benton County Steaming Ahead with Ballot Processing, as of Today 32,756 Returned

Here I am at the Benton County Election Office in Prosser. This machine photographs ballot envelopes and kicks out unsigned ballots.

Employees of the Benton County Election Office in Prosser have geared up again and are processing ballots for the 2020 presidential primary election. As of Sunday March 8, Benton County voters had returned 32,756 ballots.

Amanda Hatfield, Manager of the Benton Council Election Office, recently walked me through each step between the time that the first ballots are received and the time that the election is certified.

  1. Upon arrival primary ballots are separated by hand into Democratic Party and Republican Party based on the box checked on the envelope. As of Sunday, 753 ballots did not have a checked box that declared a party. Those voters will receive a letter and will have a chance to correct the omission so their votes can count.
  2. Ballots are then run through a machine ( pictured above) that takes a picture of the front of the envelopes and kicks out ballots that are not signed. Voters who fail to sign their ballots receive a letter and have an opportunity to correct the problem.
  3. Pictures of the signature side of the ballot envelopes go into a computer program.
  4. An election department employee goes through the ballot envelope pictures four at a time on a computer to make sure that signatures match those on file. Voters with signature match issues receive a letter and a chance to prove the signature is theirs..
  5. An election department employee takes approved ballots and removes the cover envelope with the signature and party declaration. On election day, March 10, votes are removed from the inside sleeve and votes received through Saturday are counted.
  6. On Wednesday votes that arrived by mail or were placed in ballot boxes after Saturday are processed and counted.
  7. Votes that are postmarked by the deadline 8:00 p.m. Tuesday continue to be counted. Votes with corrected signatures or party designations are counted.
  8. A trickle of votes continue to be corrected and counted until certification.
  9. The Board of Elections meets on March 19, 2020 at 9:00 a.m. to address any outstanding issues and certifies the election the next day, March 20.

May 24, 2016, 34,991, votes were cast in Benton County in the presidential primary, 34.37% of registered voters. However, the Democrats had already chosen delegates in caucuses that were held on March 26. Based on early returns for the 2020 primary, officials at the election office predict that participation this year may reach 50%.

Richland’s New Mayor Ryan Lukson Brings Change to City Council

Richland Mayor Ryan Lukson

Tuesday night Richland City Council will vote to change their meeting time from 7:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and eliminate the pre-meeting format. See email from Lukson below.

When Richland City Council Candidate Ryan Lukson interviewed with the Tri-City Herald editorial board prior to the 2017 election, he admitted that he had a problem with the way the pre-meetings were held:

“Lukson also takes issue with the council’s pre-meeting before the regular city council session. He questions why — since it is open to the public — it can’t be held in the large council meeting room. Instead, council members meet in a cramped chamber that limits the number of people who can attend.

It’s a question we have as well. With Lukson’s experience in county government, perhaps he could persuade his fellow city council members to be more transparent and more obliging in their dealings with citizens.”

Although the pre-meetings were moved to the new council chamber in the new city hall, they were not televised or taped and many people still thought the meetings weren’t opened to the public. Issues discussed in pre-meetings included the budget, the lodging tax, the marijuana petition, and locations and plans for proposed new parks among other topics.

Richland Mayor Ryan Lukson.

Attorney for Richland City Council Member Robert Thompson Throws Everything but the Kitchen Sink at DUI Charges

Trooper’s Wife Drawn into the Case

Councilmember Robert Thompson’s attorney, Kevin L. Holt, has thrown everything but the kitchen sink at the court attempting to have Thompson’s DUI (Driving Under the Influence) charges dismissed. In his briefs, Holt has questioned the reliability of breathalyzers. He also argues that Thompson’s blood alcohol level at time of testing could be higher than at time of driving due to “involuntary intoxication” caused by dehydration; that there was no probable cause to stop Thompson; and the arresting trooper’s wife who was driving along with her husband was Thompson’s “adversary”.

Holt writes:

‘The trooper was accompanied that evening by his wife Michele [sic], who was doing a ride along. Michelle was or had been an Assistant Kennewick City Attorney. I believe this was her last night of employment with the city, as she had submitted her resignation previously and had informed this attorney her last day was to be June 30, 2019. Michele [sic] was a cougar football fan and alumni of WSU. As a local prosecuting attorney and a Tri City Cougar alumni she would have been aware that the Cougar vanity plate, KANANI 1, was her adversary Robert Thompson. She knew Mr. Thompson very well, she often exchanged WSU information with Mr. Thompson, who was a regular in her court, in fact she had recently been on the losing side of a criminal case with Mr. Thompson. It is not unreasonable to speculate that she informed her husband Trooper J. Stairet that he was about to stop the Mayor of Richland, her adversary Robert Thompson.”

Holt’s discovery requests include email, texts and electronic data transmitted by both Officer James Stairet and his wife Michelle Dorsett Stairet for “29 June 2019 at 2300 PDST thru 30 June 2019 at 1000 PDST and the following 10 days.” In addition, he has asked for the personnel files of both Officer Stairet and his wife. Holt also wants the National Highway Traffic Association and the Washington State Patrol policies on “ride along”.

For the same time period he requests all communication between the WSP [Washington State Police] employee to Benton County Prosecuting Attorney, City of Kennewick, or the Tri City Herald or any other news agency.

A judge and prosecutor from Yakima County are handling the case. A hearing is scheduled for March 10, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. at the Benton County Court House.

Richland Mayor Bob Thompson was Compensated More in 2019 by the City of Kennewick than the City of Richland

In 2019 Mayor Bob Thompson, collected $39,950.84 from the City of Richland for wages; medical, dental and vision insurance; and mileage compensation. In Kennewick his paycheck was $49,472 for defending former Mayor Steve Young from a recall petition. It is unclear what services were provided in 2016 when Thompson received $25,000 from Kennewick. The 2016 payment was also greater than Thompson’s Richland compensation that year as the insurance coverage that Richland council members now receive wasn’t approved until March 21, 2017.

Recently Thompson also defended current Kennewick Mayor Don Britain in his successful effort to have a recall petition dismissed. Britain said he would pay his own legal fees but did not indicate if he would then ask the Kennewick City Council members to vote to cover his costs as they did in the Young case.

Ex-Mayor Bob Thompson Moves to have his DUI Case Dropped on a Technicality.

Bob Thompson has kicked the can down the road on his DUI case for a third time. He says his arrest was illegal.

At the time of his arrest, Thompson asked for a blood test and was taken to the hospital for that purpose, but the results of that blood test have not been released. Here is the police report from his arrest on June 29, 2019. The 4th page has the officer’s narrative about the incident including the blood test which is mentioned in the next to the last sentence.

About Randy Slovic

A wife, mother and grandmother, Randy has experience in government and business. She’s excited to share her personal and professional experience with Richland, her home for the past 10 years.

When her two girls were very young, Randy worked as an assistant to Maryland state delegate Jennie Forehand, later joining the legislative staff of U.S. Sen. Ernest F. Hollings of South Carolina. She then became a Congressional legislative director, a job few women held at the time, to U.S. Rep. Lane Evans of Illinois.

Randy also has experience running family businesses. She helped her husband, Bob, run a mid-sized oil company that remains in the family to this day, almost 100 years after its founding. Randy has also been a partner in a family-owned commercial property business.  

She moved to Richland in 2009 after Bob, an engineer, accepted a transfer to Hanford.

Randy is passionate about the environment.

She is certified in wetland delineation, trained in macroinvertebrate identification, and experienced in stormwater management issues.  

For the past three years Randy has introduced Benton County 5th graders to the world of aquatic insects at the annual Salmon Summit. Her Benton County Heritage Garden has been featured on the Academy of Children’s Theatre Garden Tour.

What People Say

“Randy has worked tirelessly to elect women to offices in the eastern part of the state…”

National Women’s Political Caucus of Washington

“We like her goals, and if anyone has a chance creating a more inviting atmosphere at city council meetings, it’s Slovic.” Tri-City Herald Endorsement

“She will listen to us and will be a great advocate.”

Liz and Ed Temple, Richland

“Local 598 is confident that success in your campaign will promote prosperity for the hard-working men and women of UA 598 and their communities.”

United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada Local 598

Let’s build something together.