Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey has an important but difficult question to answer in the next couple of weeks: How do you determine if political candidates live in the district where they are running for office?
The question came up recently when Vancouver resident Carolyn Crain challenged 18th Legislative District Position 2 candidate John Ley’s voter registration. Crain claims Ley still lives at his home in Camas, not at the Battle Ground address Ley listed on his voter registration in April. Ley’s Camas home is in the 17th District, not the 18th.
Kimsey presided over a hearing Tuesday morning to hear testimony from Ley and Crain on the voter registration challenge. His role will be to try to interpret a murky legal requirement that candidates “reside” in the district where they are seeking office. The law does not define “reside.”
According to Kimsey, Ley changed his voter registration to the Battle Ground address in April.
“All parties are in agreement that prior to April 2022, Mr. Ley resided and was domiciled in Camas, Washington, outside of the 18th District,” Kimsey said.
At the hearing, Ley said there is no minimum time requirement for living at a residence when registering to vote or updating voter registration. The Secretary of State’s office said the only requirement is that a person live in the state for at least 30 days before registering to vote.
Ley has admitted he doesn’t live in Battle Ground, at least not in a traditional sense. Ley said he is renting a room in Philip and Eileen Haggerty’s home, paying $1 per month, and is free to stay in the home whenever he wants.
When asked about an earlier statement Ley made that he did not recall how often he stayed at the Battle Ground home, Ley said, “I have spent the night at that address, and that was accurate at the time. I did not recall specifics. My intention in renting the room was they are snowbirds. They live out of state and therefore I could freely access that location per our agreement anytime I desired.”
Ley said he does not have a lease or written rental contract, as they had made a verbal agreement for the rental. However, he did have a signed and notarized affidavit from Philip Haggerty dated May 31 attesting to the agreement.
What happens when the Haggertys return home from Arizona is yet to be decided.
“I would allow them the use of their home to the maximum extent possible,” Ley said, leaving open the possibility he would return to his home in Camas during that time.
“The majority of my adult life I have spent as a nontraditional voter as described by law… For 11.5 years I was in the military. One hundred percent of the time I was registered to vote at my parents’ address,” Ley said.
County property records show Ley has owned a home on Fremont Street in Camas, now valued at more than $1.3 million, for more than 20 years.
In an attempt to verify Ley’s address, Crain said she sent certified letters with restricted delivery instructions to both addresses. The letter sent to Battle Ground was signed for by Eileen Haggerty, while the letter sent to the Camas address was returned unsigned.
“I visited both addresses on Thursday of filing week and no one responded at the door of either home,” Crain said. “I spoke to neighbors in Battle Ground who stated they had never seen (Ley) there, showed his picture to them, and they said he does not live there.”
Kimsey said he expects to rule on the voter registration challenge within the next couple of weeks, adding he wanted a decision on the books before ballots are mailed on July 15.