A federal lawsuit filed by the Washington Election Integrity Coalition United against Clark County and Auditor Greg Kimsey was dismissed Sept. 30 by U.S. District Court Judge Lauren King.
In the ruling, King found the plaintiffs’ lawsuit was not based on actual or imminent alleged injury that is concrete. King also said the U.S. District Court did not have jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims but said remanding the case to state court would be futile.
“Because plaintiffs have asserted only generalized grievances, the court finds that plaintiffs lack Article III standing to assert their federal claims,” King wrote.
“At the outset, the court recognizes that the right at issue in this case — the right to vote and have that vote counted — is a fundamental matter in a free and democratic society,” King wrote. “But a voter seeking relief in federal court for alleged violations of constitutional rights must have standing to do so, including a personal stake in the outcome, distinct from a generally available grievance about government.”
The coalition filed simultaneous lawsuits in Clark, King, Snohomish, Whatcom, Thurston, Pierce, Franklin and Lincoln counties in September 2021. Six were remanded to federal court, while the suits in Franklin and Lincoln counties were dismissed. In each, the group claimed county auditors used “uncertified voting systems to not only tabulate the votes but also, while under oath, certified the results from those systems” during the 2020 elections, the group said in a statement.
Washington Secretary of State candidate Tamborine Borelli, the director of the Washington Election Integrity Coalition United, said in an email Wednesday to The Columbian that the judge should not have dismissed the Clark County lawsuit.
“Judge King applied the Article III federal standing requirements, which are very strict because federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction,” Borelli said. “There is no requirement to show personal injury for standing under the state statute … which is what the individual plaintiff cases were based on.”
Borelli also said the judge acted inconsistently when she said the court lacked jurisdiction but then proceeded to rule that remanding the lawsuit to state court would be futile. Borelli noted that the coalition’s state court cases in Franklin and Lincoln counties are being appealed.
In Clark County, 34 plaintiffs were named in the suit against Kimsey and the county; among them were 3rd Congressional District candidate Joe Kent, R-Yacolt, and county auditor candidate Brett Simpson. In the lawsuit, they claimed Kimsey “allowed or facilitated fraudulent alterations of voting results.” They also claimed Kimsey tracked and kept records of voters’ preferred political party in violation of the state and federal constitutions.
Kimsey said there is no truth to the allegations and that neither he nor any of the elections staff “flipped” votes in any race. Kimsey said state law already provides a method for voters to challenge election results.
“The judge ruled that the plaintiffs failed to avail themselves of the opportunities under state law to challenge an election. That opportunity is a requested recount of the results and also a contest in Superior Court of the election,” Kimsey told The Columbian on Wednesday. “In addition, because the plaintiffs’ arguments are without merit, the judge did not remand the case to Superior Court.”
King’s ruling is only the most recent blow to the Washington Election Integrity Coalition United. A suit filed by the group against Gov. Jay Inslee was dismissed in June after a state Supreme Court commissioner said the group’s claims were based on “hearsay and double hearsay.”
After the case was dismissed, Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced in a press release that his office had asked the court to levy sanctions against the group and its attorney, Virginia Shogren, for bringing forward a case “totally devoid of legal merit.” The court agreed, ordering the coalition to pay $9,588.80 and Shogren to pay $18,795.90.
But Borelli said the organization isn’t ready to give up on the Clark County case, noting the coalition “is analyzing the order and assessing all viable options.”