Washington group fined for meritless voter fraud lawsuit

SEATTLE (AP) — The Washington state Supreme Court has fined a nonprofit group and its lawyer more than $28,000 for making legally meritless claims alleging widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.

The Washington Election Integrity Coalition United was ordered to pay nearly $9,600, and its Sequim, Washington-based attorney, Virginia Shogren, was ordered to pay nearly $18,800 for suing Gov. Jay Inslee, The Seattle Times reported.

The fines were imposed last month and announced Wednesday by Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office, which defended Inslee in the case. Ferguson said his office also intends to file a complaint against Shogren with the Washington State Bar Association.

The sanctions were the latest defeat for the “Stop the Steal” movement stoked by former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Those claims have been rejected in dozens of lawsuits and audits throughout the country as no widespread fraud has been found.

The coalition had petitioned the state Supreme Court in October, seeking a ruling that Inslee violated his constitutional duties by allegedly allowing or encouraging the state Department of Licensing to register noncitizens to vote. The court dismissed the case.

In its motion for sanctions, Ferguson’s office wrote that the petition was “so devoid of legal merit that there was no reasonable possibility that it would have been successful.” The motion noted the petition had been based largely on unsworn statements by a retired Department of Licensing employee who made “dubious” assumptions about citizenship status of people based on ethnicity.

Inslee in a statement said people who “intentionally spread lies and undermine our elections must be held accountable.” The governor proposed legislation this year that would have criminalized some lies about elections, but it did not advance.

Neither Shogren nor the coalition responded to requests for comment from the newspaper. In a website post, the coalition said the sanctions show courts are “intent on discouraging any case that will shine a bright light on one of the ways our electoral system is fatally flawed.”

The coalition is led by Tamborine Borrelli, who has filed to run for Secretary of State this year.

Her group also has filed lawsuits against county elections officials, seeking audits of the 2020 election, with similar claims of a widespread conspiracy. Republican congressional candidates Joe Kent and Doug Basler also have signed on as plaintiffs.

Six of those lawsuits remain pending in U.S. District Court for Western Washington — and could result in additional sanctions.