Washington state voters’ pamphlets are already arriving in mailboxes. But just how much can voters trust what's written there?
The KING 5 Investigators looked at one hotly contested race that reveals why voters may need to rethink how much they rely on the guide when they fill out their ballots.
Seattle attorney Sue Parisien is trying to unseat King County Superior Court Judge Chris Washington. And if you look at the state voters' guide, she has some big guns backing her.
One is Gov. Chris Gregoire, who is quoted as saying: "her (Parisien's) trial results were outstanding. And her...clients have consistently expressed confidence in her and the high quality of her work."
But Gregoire is not endorsing Parisien in the judge's race. The quote came from a generic job recommendation the governor wrote in 2005 when Parisien was an assistant attorney general.
Gregoire's office said they asked Parisien to take the quote off her website because it implies an endorsement that does not exist. The quote was removed, but it's still in the voters’ pamphlet going out to more than a million King County voters this week.
There’s also a quote from state Attorney General Rob McKenna, calling Parisien a "fine candidate for...the Superior Court." That quote is from a letter McKenna wrote in 2007. He's not endorsing Parisien in this election.
"It's almost unheard of to have something like this in a judicial race,” said King County Superior Court Judge Deborah Fleck.
Fleck and King County Superior Court Judge Mike Heavey say Parisien's statements are more than lapses -- they're a violation of judicial codes of integrity.
"Integrity is defined as honesty and soundness of character. And to make deceptive and misleading statements in the voters pamphlet is the opposite of honesty and soundness or character," Heavey said.
"She's simply not endorsed by Governor Gregoire or Attorney General McKenna despite what she clearly implies in her Voters’ Pamphlet statement,” said Fleck.
In the voters' guide write up, Parisien also claims twice that she is an "Adjunct Faculty Member for the University of Washington School of Law.”
But there are only three adjunct faculty members at the school, and Parisien is not one of them. She is one of more than 200 part-time lecturers. UW said it will ask Parisien to correct her website.
We asked the Elections Division of the Secretary of State's Office just how much they fact check what candidates write.
"We don't have the resources to fact check every statement, and in fact it's pretty clear in the law that we aren't responsible for the content in terms of the factual accuracy of the statements candidates make," said Shane Hamlin, Elections Co-Director.
Hamlin said state law prevents the Elections Office from changing a candidate’s statement, unless a change is ordered by a court. He said neither Gregoire nor McKenna legally challenged what Parisien wrote, despite being notified in May that she was quoting them.
Parisien declined to be interviewed on camera. But she did send a series of e-mails stating that the quotes she used “are not endorsements—they are evaluations and unsolicited letters of praise from my two former bosses—Gregoire and McKenna.”
Parisien also wrote “there was absolutely no intent on my part to misstate or misrepresent my teaching role at the Law School.”
Whatever Parisien intended, elections officials say this race should serve as a caution to every voter to use the voters' pamphlet as a guide -- not an elections bible.
“It’s a supplement, it's a lot of great information but to really be an informed voter; voters can find other resources and should," said Hamlin.
In the general election, all Superior Court races appear in the state's voters’ pamphlet, not the guide issued by the county.
A check of the statements submitted by Parisien's opponent, incumbent Chris Washington, did not find anything that appears to be misleading or inaccurate.
Related documents: Read below the original Gregoire and McKenna comments about Parisien.