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Thursday, September 6, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Deal reached with woman who registered dog to vote

Seattle Times staff reporter

"Next stop, the Legislature."

That's what Jane Balogh said Wednesday after accepting a deal that will allow her to avoid a criminal conviction for registering her dog to vote.

Balogh, a Federal Way grandmother, said she won't give up trying to change state law so prospective voters would have to prove they are citizens.

She was charged with making a false statement to a public official after she registered her dog, an Australian shepherd-terrier mix, to demonstrate that voter-identification requirements are inadequate. She registered the dog using a phone bill in his name, Duncan M. MacDonald.

Balogh also submitted absentee ballots in several elections that she marked "void" and placed in envelopes with paw prints on the line for the voter's signature. No votes were cast.

Under the settlement approved by King County District Court Judge Mariane Spearman, Balogh, 66, must perform 10 hours of community service, pay $240 in court costs and not commit any other crimes in the next year. The misdemeanor charge will be dismissed after one year if she complies with those conditions.

Balogh said she wanted to fight the criminal charge in court, but decided not to because of the possibility that she could have been convicted of a felony — and stripped, at least temporarily, of the right to vote. Prosecutors threatened to file a felony charge if the case went to trial.

"I think people will look at it as a joke — and it was funny because my dog was adorable," Balogh said after the court proceedings. "But this is a serious matter because our democracy is truly at risk."

The Legislature's ability to address Balogh's concerns may be limited, however. The federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 says a utility bill, paycheck or bank statement may be used as identification in registering to vote. "We don't have any choice in this," state Secretary of State Sam Reed said.

King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg said the settlement with Balogh was fair because it holds her accountable "but it doesn't go overboard in giving her a criminal conviction."

Satterberg, who met with Balogh before her court appearance, said it was appropriate to give her a chance to avoid conviction "in light of her service to her country [she served in the Army], her exemplary record as a citizen, and her intent, which really was the most important thing — she did not intend to submit a false vote. ...

"It was civil disobedience to make her political point. She had her point to make, and we had our point to make. We both got to make them."

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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