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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Ethics complaint alleges Clark County auditor mishandled 2022 voter registration challenge of candidate facing voter fraud charges

Attorney who lodged accusation represents former candidate John Ley

By Shari Phiel, Columbian staff writer
Published: December 28, 2023, 7:19pm

Vancouver attorney Angus Lee on Thursday filed an ethics complaint against Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey. He alleges Kimsey’s handling of a 2022 voter registration challenge against candidate John Ley violated the county’s code of ethics and policies.

“The core issue is that Kimsey allegedly assisted in initiating the challenge to Mr. Ley’s voter registration and advised those opposing Ley on how to construct their case,” Lee wrote in the complaint, which was filed with the county’s newly formed Ethics Review Commission.

Ley, who is represented by Lee, is facing felony voter fraud charges related to that 2022 run for an 18th Legislative District Position 2 seat. In November, Ley entered a not-guilty plea to the charges and is scheduled for trial April 29.

Ley, 68, was one of three Republicans to run for the 18th District position. A month before filing to run, Ley changed the address on his voter registration from his Fremont Street home in Camas, which is in the 17th District, to a Battle Ground address in the 18th District.

Fellow Republican Carolyn Crain successfully challenged Ley’s voter registration.

“Greg Kimsey did not initiate the voter challenge from me. During filing week, I always watch to see who has filed. When (Ley) filed, I thought, ‘What? He doesn’t live in the 18th District. … This is ridiculous,’ ” Crain said Thursday.

After Kimsey determined the voter registration was invalid but did not remove Ley from the ballot, Crain took the issue to court. Clark County Superior Court Judge David Gregerson ruled there wasn’t enough time to remove Ley from the ballot, but he said any votes cast for Ley would not be included when determining the two primary election winners.

Crain said she filed the challenge and went to court because she didn’t want to wait and risk Democrats challenging Ley’s status after the primary and leave Republicans without a candidate.

“This wasn’t my first rodeo,” Crain said. “Did I need any advice from Greg Kimsey? No.”

Kimsey said he hasn’t received a copy of the complaint, but he is aware of the concerns and allegations included in it. Kimsey said the allegations are false.

Screenshots of text messages between Kimsey and Kathy McDonald, former vice chair of the Clark County Republican Party, were also included in the complaint as alleged evidence of Kimsey’s interference. When McDonald asked what evidence could be provided to challenge Ley’s voter registration, Kimsey responded with specific examples, such as date and time-stamped photos, a driver’s license or mail delivery. In the exchange, Kimsey also said that “residency can be hard to disprove.”

Crain said it’s Kimsey’s job as the county auditor to answer those kinds of questions.

“He will talk to anyone, at any time,” Crain said.

The complaint also claims Kimsey “seemingly influenced” the drawing of a precinct boundary to allow Greg Cheney to run for an 18th District seat, which Cheney won.

Kimsey said he has no role when it comes to setting the boundaries for legislative districts.

“The redistricting that Mr. Lee is referring to was carried out by the state redistricting committee, which I have no involvement in,” Kimsey said. “That legislative district boundary change resulted in a change to the precinct boundary. … The precinct boundary was adjusted to match up to the legislative district boundary.”

Precinct boundary changes must be approved by the county council. While Kimsey said he does advise the council on any changes needed, he said those changes wouldn’t affect the legislative districts for precincts.

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In his complaint, Lee additionally said ex parte conversations, such as the ones between Kimsey and McDonald, should have been disclosed before the voter registration challenge hearing.

Kimsey said he did disclose those conversations and offered to recuse himself from the hearing.

“I had made arrangements with another county auditor to conduct the voter registration challenge in the event Mr. Ley chose to take me up on my offer. At that point in time, he declined,” Kimsey said.

As for whether the complaint was filed as part of a strategy to clear his client of the criminal charges, Lee said nothing could be further from the truth.

“Anyone who thinks that should sit down and read the complaint, read the law and read the information that’s attached,” Lee said in an interview Thursday.