Whether or not he is eligible to run in the 18th Legislative District, John Ley’s name will remain on the ballot in the August 2 primary election.
In a hearing Wednesday morning, Clark County Superior Court Judge David Gregerson denied a request for a temporary restraining order. Vancouver residents Carolyn Crain and Penny Ross were seeking the order in a lawsuit against Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey and Election Supervisor Cathie Garber.
Crain and Ross had hoped the order would force the election office to print and mail new ballots without Ley’s name.
State Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, who represented Crain and Ross at the hearing, said state law is clear that a candidate’s name cannot appear on a ballot only if that candidate is properly registered to vote in the same district in which they are running for election. He said it was clear that Ley was not properly registered, noting that the county’s response to the lawsuit does not dispute this.
“In my view, the question is whether this law is enforceable,” he said.
Stokesbary said Crain did everything necessary and within the time limit to properly challenge Ley’s name on the ballot.
When Ley filed for the 18th District seat in May, Crain challenged his voter registration. Crain claimed that Ley did not live at the Battle Ground address he provided but at his home in Camas. Kimsey held a hearing on the matter on June 28, later ruling that Ley did not live at Battle Ground. Because Ley had changed his address again on July 4, this time to an apartment on Hazel Dell Avenue, Kimsey did not cancel Ley’s voter registration, which left Ley on the ballot. A day after Kimsey’s ruling, Crain and Ross filed suit.
Amanda Migchelbrink of the district attorney’s office, who represented the county at the hearing, said removing Ley’s name was not that simple.
Adding to the additional expense, estimated at $250,000 to $300,000, Migchelbrink said there simply wasn’t time to reprint more than 334,000 ballots and mail them out in time.
Although only the 18th District ballots would need to be replaced, Migchelbrink said the ballot printing process would require all ballots to be reprinted.
Stokesbary said while he understood that reprinting the ballots would cause additional costs and work for the county, there were bigger issues at play.
“Especially in the year 2022, I am concerned about the deleterious effects on democracy that it would have if an ineligible candidate were allowed to remain on the ballot,” he said.
“You find a receptive audience about election integrity and public confidence in elections, but how do you respond to criticism that the remedy you’re asking for is going to do more harm than good?” Gregerson asked Stokesbary.
Gregerson said some ballots had already been mailed out, so reprinting them could mean some voters would receive two ballots. It would only create more confusion, he said.
“It seems like a relatively low cost to the county in the scheme of things. More importantly, it’s a relatively small cost in defending our democracy, ensuring our laws make sense and only eligible candidates are allowed to vote,” Stokesbary said.
Migchelbrink said Crain and Ross had other options for challenging Ley’s candidacy.
“The statute says you have two days after the primary election to contest what’s on the ballot. The information Mr. Kimsey had at the time Mr. Ley applied was that he resided in the 18th District,” Migchelbrink said.
Migchelbrink said if the ballots needed to be reprinted, they would not be ready to be sent out until after the primary election, effectively voiding the election because state law would prohibit the county from accepting the ballots. filled after 8 p.m. on August 2.
Stokesbary agreed that was a concern and suggested the judge could instead order the county not to count any votes for Ley. Gregerson said that was an option, but he couldn’t consider it under this motion.
Crain and Ross still have time to seek further court action. In an interview Wednesday night, Crain said they were considering their next steps, including further court filings. What she doesn’t want to do is wait to see if Ley passes the primary. Crain said waiting until after the primary could leave voters with only one choice on the general election ballot if the other candidate is withdrawn.
Ballots for the Aug. 2 primary election will be posted this week, with the first ballots appearing in voters’ mailboxes from Friday.