The Yakima County auditor dismissed a voter registration challenge Thursday against Liz Hallock.
Lisa Homer, a wealth adviser based in Yakima, filed a complaint at the end of October against Hallock, a small business owner and attorney who ran for Yakima City Council District 5.
According to early election results, District 5 Candidate Soneya Lund will win the seat. Lund received 760 votes (59%) of to Hallock’s 521 (40%). Lund also led in the primary election with 686 votes (37%), compared to Hallock’s 607 (33)% and Mark Collins’ 561 (30%).
Homer alleged that Hallock did not live at the District 5 residence she claimed as her full-time home on her voter registration form. Hallock denied the allegations.
Following Thursday’s hearing, which Hallock did not attend, Yakima County Auditor Charles Ross and Yakima County Elections Manager Kathy Fisher determined that Homer and her assistant, Bill Duerr, had not presented sufficient evidence to prove Hallock did not live at the residence.
Ross noted that Washington state law related to voter registration and residency requires challengers to provide the highest level of proof of an alleged violation, which has to be “absolutely obvious.” Ross gave as examples a piece of returned mail showing that the person does not live there or a voter officially being registered somewhere else to vote, he said.
“In this case, I just don’t see that we can disqualify her as a voter at that address,” he said. “Until a court ruling comes out, the law is tilted in favor of voter participation in the electoral process.”
Ross also noted that the complaint, filed Oct. 28, missed the deadline to possibly affect Hallock’s placement on the ballot. Challenges to candidate eligibility must be filed at least 45 days prior to an election.
“There are timelines on purpose,” Ross said. “They were missed.”
Homer said she filed the complaint when she did because she was not aware of the concerns about Hallock’s residency until October.
She and Duerr then assembled the evidence they submitted with Homer’s complaint, including that Hallock had her law license and cannabis business license at addresses in District 6, that her child attended a District 6 elementary school, and that the only property Hallock owned in District 5 was listed as a rental on a vacation rental site.
Duerr said he had driven by the contested residence several times a day, at different times, for months. He said he never saw the lights on or other signs that Hallock and her family occupied the house. Homer and Duerr also submitted written declarations that Duerr received from two individuals they described as Hallock’s neighbors who alleged that Hallock did not live at the house.
“She says she lives here, but her neighbors say she does not,” Homer said. “She’s giving the impression that she lives there when she does not. She bought this house so she could run in this district.”
Hallock submitted a packet of 14 exhibits prior to the hearing, which included a written declaration that the residence in District 5 was her home though she often was gone for work and business; correspondence with her Realtor about the District 5 home; photographs of her children inside a residence; a list of personal items stolen from the property during a July burglary she reported to the Yakima Police Department; and copies of online correspondence about the residence.
Ross noted his decision was final and unappealable, though he noted that the challenge could still be taken to the court system and reversed through a court order.
The auditor office’s formal response, as well as the evidence submitted about the complaint, would be filed online by the end of the day, he said.
Following the hearing, Homer said she had not considered going to court over the challenge. She added that she did intend to follow up on possible changes to the residency requirements for elected offices at a state level.
She voiced concern that Hallock’s presence on the primary ballot had ousted Collins, a candidate Homer alleged clearly lived in District 5.
“I’m aware of state law, but I want people to be aware that we need more transparency,” Homer said. “There are too many gray areas.”
Following the hearing, Hallock said via email that having her home watched has caused fear and sickness for her family and her children. She also said she was disappointed by the opposition’s attempts to paint her as an outsider to the community.
“Our country is becoming too polarized because people are unwilling to accept differences of political opinion and have adult conversations about substantive issues,” Hallock wrote. “People are literally choosing to live only in areas where they politically identify, causing further polarization and causing our young people to leave Yakima.”
Hallock added, “If Yakima wants to truly flourish, it must be willing to accept the voices of new residents and educated women who do not necessarily agree with the status quo.”