Federal sources confirm to KING 5 that Cetin was not a U.S. citizen, meaning legally he cannot vote. However, state records show Cetin registered to vote in 2014 and participated in three election cycles, including the May presidential primary.
Cetin, who immigrated to the United States from Turkey as a child, is considered a permanent resident or green card holder. While a permanent resident can apply for U.S. citizenship after a certain period of time, sources tell KING his status had not changed from green card holder to U.S. citizen.
While voters must attest to citizenship upon registering online or registering to vote at the Department of Licensing Office, Washington state doesn't require proof of citizenship. Therefore elections officials say the state's elections system operates, more or less, under an honor system.
"We don’t have a provision in state law that allows us either county elections officials or the Secretary of State's office to verify someone’s citizenship," explained Secretary of State Kim Wyman. "So, we’re in this place where we want to make sure we’re maintaining people’s confidence in the elections and the integrity of the process, but also that we’re giving this individual, like we would any voter, his due process. We’re moving forward, and that investigation is really coming out of the investigation from the shootings."
The penalty for voting as a non U.S. citizen could result in five years of prison time or a $10,000, according to Secretary of State's Office.
"The penalties are very serious. That’s why we want to make sure we’re very measured, and this is why we want to make sure we’re very calm and purposeful in how we move forward," Wyman continued. "The stakes are very high on both sides. You want to keep the confidence level high, but you also want to protect the voting rights of everyone."
Wyman says while it's impossible to determine an exact number, she does not believe this case points to a larger issue.
"Our hands are kind of tied, but make no mistake, we want to make sure that everybody has confidence that people casting ballots are eligible. This is certainly going to be a topic at next legislation."