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Residency challenge denied in Hospital Commission race

Dr. Tamara Sleeter, a candidate for the Public Hospital District No. 1 commission, lives in the hospital district, the county’s top elections official has decided.

Sleeter’s residency in the district was challenged by Jim Sullivan, who claimed, based on his research, that she lives in Auburn and not at the address on her voter-registration card that puts her inside the district.

Regardless of what elections director Sherril Huff had decided, Sleeter’s name would have appeared in the Nov. 5 general election because ballots have already been printed.

Sleeter is running against incumbent Sue Bowman.

Sleeter said Monday she’s pleased the elections department stated her primary residence is in Renton.

“I continue to run for the board of commissioners,” she said. “I plan to serve to the best of my abilities, if I am elected.”

In presenting his case, Sullivan said he visited Sleeter’s home at least eight times over two months but never received a response when he knocked on the door. He tried to contact Sleeter by phone and registered mail. He also submitted declarations from two neighbors who indicated the Renton house wasn’t occupied.

But Huff, director of the King County Elections Department, decided after a hearing Sept. 12 attended by Sullivan and Sleeter that Sullivan did not meet the “burden of proof” to prove Sleeter’s registration is false.

“Though the allegations may raise some doubt as to Ms. Sleeter’s physical residence, they do not establish by clear and convincing evidence that Ms. Sleeter’s registration at the Renton address is improper,” Huff wrote.

Sleeter said there’s “absolutely no doubt” about where she lives.

In an interview, Sleeter said she’s at church on Saturdays and she doesn’t know of any woman who would open the door at 8 p.m. when an unknown man knocks at her house. She also said she was likely on vacation during some of Sullivan’s visits.

“I don’t keep banker’s hours,” said Sleeter, who is director of obstetrics for Valley Women’s Clinic, which has clinics in Renton and Covington.

She and her husband own a home in Auburn, where a child is still in school.

In her decision, Huff cited state law that defines residency as it relates to voter registration as “a person’s permanent address where he or she physically resides and maintains his or her abode.”

Related case law, she wrote, “provides that residence requires physical presence plus an intention to make that place one’s home.”

In an interview after the decision, Sullivan pointed to what he called the “clear evidence” he presented regarding Sleeter’s residency and to the fact one of Sleeter’s children still attends school in Auburn.

“To no one’s surprise, I was very disappointed to learn that my challenge to the legitimacy of Tamara Sleeter’s voter registration was declined, based on the extreme ‘burden of proof’ requirements in RCW 28A.08.840,” he said

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