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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

In Our View: Feeling sorry for Auditor Greg Kimsey

The Columbian
Published: January 2, 2024, 6:03am

Sometimes we feel unhappy with our elected officials. Sometimes we feel proud. Sometimes, as Ronald Reagan suggested, we feel wary of elected officials, and that is not a bad thing. But we never feel sorry for them.

But we feel sorry for Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey. The Republican, who marks his 25th year in office this week, has been the undeserved target of local and national circumstances and avarice surrounding elections.

In Washington, county auditors have a lot of jobs. They issue marriage licenses. They handle auto licensing, which must be a perpetually thankless job. They keep public records for the county and junior taxing districts, and as the name suggests, even do some auditing.

And, of course, they oversee elections. What used to be a quieter part of Kimsey’s job has turned into a hot mess in recent years, thanks to enemies of the United States and unprincipled losers who would have their way, regardless of harm to our system of free and fair elections.

Let’s start with the global problems. Last week the Associated Press reported national security experts are predicting cyberattacks on U.S. elections systems from Russia, China, Iran and elsewhere. Although the computer used to count the Clark County ballot is not connected to the internet, hackers have in the past compromised state systems that hold voter registration data. And, as the AP reported, “Add to that the fresh risks that have developed since the 2020 election and the false claims of widespread fraud being spread by former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies.”

And that brings us to a second reason to feel sorry for Kimsey, who is one of the most accessible, transparent and forthright public officials to ever serve the citizens of Clark County. Not only was his credibility unfairly challenged in the 2022 election (which he won by a 2-1 margin), some of the same people have filed a “Restore Election Confidence” petition, seeking to place an initiative on the November 2024 ballot.

The “election reform” measures would, at first glance, do anything but make elections more fair and transparent. In fact, they aim to overturn a system that is the envy of much of the world.

Some of these “reforms” would be impossible for Kimsey or any other auditor to implement, like a rule that 85 percent of all ballots must be counted by the end of Election Day. With Washington’s safe, convenient vote-by-mail system, that would mean many ballots cast on Election Day would be summarily disqualified because the U.S. Postal Service doesn’t offer same-day delivery.

That brings us to the third reason to feel sorry for Auditor Kimsey. Failed candidate John Ley, through his attorney, has filed an ethics complaint against him.

Ley is the Camas resident who in 2022 falsely claimed he lived out toward Battle Ground so that he could run for state Legislature in a different district. Ley is charged with two counts of felony voter fraud; he has pleaded not guilty and is set for trial in April.

Ley, who like Kimsey is a Republican, claims that Kimsey conspired with a third Republican, Carolyn Crain, to challenge his eligibility for office. (Kimsey found in Crain’s favor, but did not remove Ley from the ballot. A judge eventually ruled that votes cast for Ley would not count.) Kimsey and Crain both deny any collusion, and a dispassionate analysis of the record shows Kimsey went out of his way to be fair to Ley.

Imagine what a mess Clark County might be in without Auditor Greg Kimsey. We feel sorry for him, but glad that he is on the job.