Clark County Superior Court Judge David Gregerson conducts hearing Wednesday on lawsuit filed by Clark County residents Carolyn Crain and Penny Ross
A second attempt by Clark County residents to have the name of legislative candidate John Ley removed from the ballot for the Aug. 2 primary election was rejected by a Clark County Superior Court judge Wednesday morning.
At the end of the 27-minute hearing, Judge David Gregerson denied a motion filed by area residents Carolyn Crain and Penny Ross, who were seeking a court order for Ley’s name to be removed from the ballot. Ley filed as a candidate for state representative in the 18th District (position 2). Ley is one of four candidates who have filed for the seat. The others are Brad Benton, Duncan Camacho and Greg Cheney.
“I was hoping the judge could reconcile this tough situation, but I don’t think that happened,’’ said Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey. “We’re still left with a very difficult situation.’’
Crain originally filed a voter registration challenge, claiming that the address Ley used at the time of his declaration of candidacy was not accurate. Ley, who owns a home in Camas, changed the address on his voter registration on April 4 after he stated he had a verbal agreement with the owner of a Battle Ground residence to rent a bedroom at the rate of $1 per month. On May 17, Ley filed his declaration of candidacy for the 18th Legislative District seat. On May 26, the Clark County Elections Department received Crain’s challenge to Ley’s voter registration claiming the Battle Ground address was not his accurate address.
Kimsey held a hearing on June 28, at which both Crain and Ley appeared and offered testimony and evidence. In a letter dated July 8, Kimsey found that as of the date (May 26) of Crain’s challenge, Ley did not reside at the Battle Ground address. However, he communicated that his ruling had no impact on Ley’s candidacy. Kimsey said he had no authority to affect Ley’s candidacy, including removing his name from the Aug. 2 ballot or counting votes for the candidate.
“There are two separate processes,’’ Kimsey said. “His voter registration is one process. The candidate status is separate. That’s for the judge to deal with. That’s not for the county auditor to deal with.’’
The lawsuit filed earlier this week by Crain and Ross asked the judge to determine Ley’s candidacy to be invalid, claiming the auditor and the Clark County Elections Department did have the authority to remove Ley’s name from the ballot.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Crain and Ross were represented by Attorney Andrew Stokesbary (a current Republican representative in the 31st District), who asked the judge for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. Gregerson then asked the county to assess whether that resolution would be more harmful than the matter at hand. Attorney Amanda Migchelbrink represented the county.
Kimsey told Clark County Today Wednesday that because the ballots had already been printed (with Ley’s name), and were scheduled to be mailed this week, it would cost the county about $570,000 to reprint new ballots, mail them and to reprogram the election voting system. And, in addition to the cost, Kimsey said it was unlikely they could do so by the Aug. 2 primary election date.
“The first bottom line is it’s very, very unlikely that we could reprogram the election,’’ Kimsey told Clark County Today. “Our representation to the court was it was going to take us 21 days to get those ballots mailed out to voters.’’
Kimsey said it would cost approximately $270,000 to print and mail new ballots. The additional expense, estimated at $300,000, would be the result of reprogramming the election voting system. Kimsey said that would be necessary because the existing ballots are scheduled to be mailed Thursday. If they are mailed, he anticipated as many as 100,000 of those ballots would be returned by voters prior to the new ballots being mailed. He said the election voting system will not process the old ballots once the new ballots are created and it would cost about $3 per ballot for the reprogramming process.
“That’s why I have been saying it’s just not practical at this point to send out new ballots,’’ Kimsey said. “There’s no really good scenario right now. The judge didn’t have any magic dust.’’
On July 4, Ley registered to vote at a different address in the 18th District, in Hazel Dell, where he rents an apartment. He said one of the owners of the Battle Ground residence, which he described as snowbirds, had since returned from Arizona and that he did not stay at that residence when the homeowners were there.
Ley has been a resident of Clark County since 1991. Until last year’s redistricting process took place, his Camas home was located in the 18th District. The redistricting process changed the boundary and his Camas home now is located in the 17th District.
“I’ve been up front during this entire process and I have nothing to hide from the voters,’’ Ley told Clark County Today Wednesday. “I’m glad this is now behind me. I look forward to finishing the primary season and giving the voters the opportunity to make an informed decision about my candidacy to represent them.’’
Kimsey previously told Clark County Today that his July 8 ruling on Crain’s original challenge only addressed whether or not Ley was residing at the Battle Ground address on May 26, the day he received Crain’s complaint. Kimsey said then that there are only two provisions that would prevent the Elections Department from placing Ley’s name on the ballot. The first would be a challenge to his declaration of candidacy made to a judge within two days of the closing of the candidate filing period, which was May 20. Crain’s challenge was made to the Elections Department on May 26.
The timeline for the second provision will come after the Aug. 2 primary election. A challenge can be made within three days after the results of the primary election are certified, asking a judge to prevent the Elections Department from placing a candidate’s name on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.
“Those are the two provisions where a candidate’s name can be prevented from being placed on the ballot,’’ Kimsey said. “It doesn’t affect his name being on the ballot and it doesn’t affect our ability to count votes on the ballot for Mr. Ley.’’
Ley previously told Clark County Today there is a specific reason why he filed for the seat in the 18th Legislative District, rather than file in the 17th District where he owns his home.
“The answer resides in my passion for serving the people and fighting the Interstate Bridge replacement project,’’ Ley said. “I would like a seat on the Bi-state Bridge Committee of 16 legislators and given the current composition and realities, (Rep.) Paul Harris and (Sen.) Lynda Wilson are the legislators of the 17th District that are already on the committee.
“The example of (Rep.) Vicki Kraft trying to fight for common sense and have a voice on that committee rang true to me. She has tried to do the right thing, but the politics have not allowed her to get a seat on the committee in spite of her passion and interest,’’ Ley said. “When it became clear that both (Rep.) Brandon Vick and (Rep.) Larry Hoff were not going to run for reelection, that guaranteed a seat on the Bi-state Bridge Committee would come open. While it is by no means a guarantee that I could get that seat on the committee of legislators, my hope is that should the people elect me, I would then work in Olympia to be allowed to have that open seat, which is currently occupied by Brandon Vick.
“We don’t have enough legislators asking hard questions about the project,’’ Ley added. “With a seat at the table, I would be able to help Sen. Wilson and others who would ask hard questions and demand legitimate answers instead of being ignored or mislead like we are today.’’
Ley said he anticipated the challenge to his voter registration.
“I have been in Clark County now, officially, since January of 1991 so that’s over 30 years,’’ Ley said. “I know the issues. I know the people. Having been a candidate for office, I have met with citizens, attended council meetings all over Clark County and feel very comfortable offering my services to represent the people. In this instance, both my old and new districts have overlapped, and as noted, a line was changed. I felt this is how I can best effect change, especially with regards to the Interstate Bridge replacement program, and that was by getting a seat on the Bi-state Legislative Committee.’’
Editor’s note: John Ley is a former Clark County Today staff reporter. After 20 months as a full-time reporter, Ley resigned his position on April 22, prior to registering as a political candidate. Like other members of the community he occasionally still contributes content.
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