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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Former legislative candidate John Ley pleads not guilty in voter fraud case; his lawyer says charges politically motivated

He's accused of providing false voter, candidate information

By Shari Phiel, Columbian staff writer
Published: November 28, 2023, 5:32pm

Former legislative candidate John Ley pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Clark County Superior Court to felony voter fraud charges related to his unsuccessful run for an 18th Legislative District seat in 2022.

Ley is accused of providing false information for voter registration and providing false information on a declaration of candidacy. He appeared in court out of custody on a summons.

Judge Jennifer Snider granted Ley release on his own recognizance, meaning no bail was required.

Vancouver attorney Angus Lee, who is representing Ley, asked for additional time to prepare for trial, which is scheduled for April 29.

“This case is going to have extensive discovery,” Lee told Snider.

Lee has also filed an objection to holding the trial in Clark County and will likely seek a change in venue. However, there was no discussion on that matter Tuesday.

Ley, 68, was one of three Republicans to run for the 18th Legislative District Position 2 seat. Approximately one 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.

In a press release Monday, Lee said the charges against his client are politically motivated, adding that Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik is a Democrat.

“These charges represent a clear case of political, selective and unconstitutional retaliation against an individual participating in the political process,” Lee said in the press release.

According to Lee, there have been three successful prosecutions in Washington under the same statutes Ley is accused of violating, but all three cases were later overturned.

“The absence of such prosecutions historically is no coincidence,” Lee said. “County auditors and prosecutors traditionally let the public assess a candidate’s residency qualifications through the campaign process, preserving democracy by allowing voters to make the ultimate decision.”

The prosecuting attorney’s office filed the allegations Nov. 1 following an investigation by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. They are considered class C felonies, punishable by a maximum fine of $10,000 or five years in jail.

“Mr. Ley believed he was in compliance with the law, a belief supported by past decisions of the Clark County auditor,” Lee said in the press release. “Proving conscious wrongdoing in such cases is extraordinarily challenging, particularly when the lead detective didn’t seek Ley’s perspective before filing charges. The detective in this case did not even bother to ask Ley any questions or give him a chance to explain why he believed he was lawfully allowed to register where he did.”

Ley was found to be ineligible for the office following a voter registration challenge filed by Vancouver resident Carolyn Crain. County Auditor Greg Kimsey upheld Crain’s challenge, stating Ley “did not state, or otherwise provide evidence, that he resides at the Battle Ground location.”

Prior to the hearing, Ley changed the address on his voter registration again — this time to an apartment on Hazel Dell Avenue, which is also in the 18th District.

Public records show that address is currently listed on Ley’s voter registration. Kimsey confirmed a ballot for the Nov. 8 general election was sent to Ley at the Hazel Dell Avenue address, and that ballot was received and processed.