Auditor hears voter challenge to Orange’s voter registration

Lawyers argue validity of Port of Vancouver Board of Commissioners candidate’s residency

By Dameon Pesanti, Columbian staff writer

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A Vancouver woman made her case against Port of Vancouver Board of Commissioners candidate Don Orange’s residency during a voter challenge hearing Wednesday, but it’ll be a few days before Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey makes a decision.

Port Commissioner District 1 resident Carolyn Crain and Camas resident Jason Atkins allege that Orange doesn’t live within Port of Vancouver District 1.

Neither Atkins nor a representative for him were present, and his allegations weren’t addressed. Orange wasn’t in attendance, either.

“I told Mr. Orange that he should not be subject to partisan cross-examination,” said Knoll Lowney, the attorney representing him, “that if this auditor had specific questions for him, he’d make himself available.”

No one disputes that before March, Orange lived in a home outside the port district with his wife, who still lives there. The hearing focused on Orange’s residency between the present and mid-March, when he filed for office from an apartment within port District 1. Before the hearing, both sides submitted evidence they claimed proved their case.

Voter challenges are rare. When they do happen, the burden of proof is on the person making the challenge. It is up to them to provide clear and convincing evidence that the voter doesn’t live at their address on the record. For the purpose of a voter registration, state law defines a residence as a person’s permanent address where he or she physically resides and maintains his or her abode.

Crain’s voter challenge offers numerous points that she claims prove Orange lives outside the district. Among them: He was appointed to be a precinct committee officer for the Clark County Democrats less than a week before he filed to run as a port commissioner. Crain says online directories such as www.address.com show Orange’s name is still listed at his previous property. She used the real estate website Zillow to verify that his house isn’t listed as for sale or for rent.

It also claims Orange’s wife is still registered to vote at the couple’s original home address and Orange still receives his mail there.

Crain also claims to have knocked on Orange’s apartment door at least 20 times between late May and late July, but no one answered.

To that point, Orange said he’s never home because he’s busy running his auto repair business in Vancouver’s Uptown Village as well as running a campaign.

Before the hearing, Orange provided several documents to substantiate his claim that he lives within the district. Among them was a statement from the Clark County Democrats saying Orange was appointed as precinct committee officer in his absence and that he asked to be removed.

He included copies of his utility bills and checks he paid them with, a copy of his lease and photos of the somewhat disheveled apartment as what he called proof of his residency.

In hearing documents, Crain’s attorney, Angus Lee, described Orange’s apartment as having “the clear look and feel of a college dorm room or an extended-stay hotel, not a residence.”

During the hearing, Crain and Lee offered what they said was evidence that Orange moved into his apartment months later than March. They argued that his electricity bills, which dated to March, were unusually low for someone living in an apartment.

“In order for that apartment to be your abode, under Washington law, you have to intend to reside there permanently — not for a little while, not contingent on the outcome of a campaign,” Lee said. “The record makes abundantly clear he has no intention to reside in that apartment permanently.”

Lowney said the evidence is clear Orange has lived in his apartment since March. He described Crain’s challenge as an attack from a political opponent. During cross-examination of Crain, Lowney asked how much time and money she’s spent on the case and if someone else were paying her attorney fees.

Lee called that line of questions “a clear fishing expedition.” Crain declined to answer Lowney’s questions. But she said she’s spent years devoting herself to the electoral process and she’s invested in the challenge because she’s concerned for the integrity of the election.

“I’m here to tell you today that when I look at someone and I realize they’re rigging the system, I feel compelled after 40 years of doorbelling to absolutely step forward and ensure to those people that I knock on the door of tomorrow that I’ve done everything possible to guarantee the system is not rigged,” she said.

Crain is active in Republican politics and is a supporter of Orange’s opponent, Kris Greene.

In his closing statement, Lowney stuck to his original narrative.

“I think that it’s clear we know that coming here today would basically mean being cross-examined by an oil company lawyer,” Lowney said.

At the end of the hearing, Kimsey said he’d issue a written decision “in the next few days.”

It was Crain’s second attempt at removing Orange from the ballot. With the same goal in mind, she filed a lawsuit in County Superior Court against him in August. However, the suit was dismissed because she waited too long to file her petition after the secretary of state certified general election candidates.