Federal judge tosses Oregon lawsuit over mail voting, tabulation machines
Ryan Patraw process ballots at the Marion County Clerk’s Office in Salem on Monday, May 16. Each ballot goes through several steps before it is scanned to have the vote tabulated. (Ron Cooper/Oregon Capital Chronicle)
A federal judge has tossed a lawsuit intended to end mail voting and electronic voting tabulation in Oregon, saying “generalized grievances” about the state’s elections aren’t enough to give a group of unsuccessful Republican candidates and other election deniers standing to sue.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Stacie F. Beckerman dismissed the suit late last month. Plaintiffs, led by former school superintendent and 2022 Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Thielman, are appealing her ruling.
“Plaintiffs allege that Oregon’s computerized vote tabulation and mail-in voting systems violate their constitutional rights, including violations of the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, and their fundamental right to vote,” Beckerman wrote. “Plaintiffs allege that ‘organized criminals’ are manipulating Oregon’s elections, and they base their claims on a documentary about voting irregularities in other states and reports of voting irregularities in Oregon.”
In a 44-page complaint filed last October and in oral arguments last month, Thielman and others claimed that Oregon voters have been disenfranchised, though they provided no evidence. The bulk of the complaint relied on “2,000 Mules,” a 2022 film from right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza, that purported to show that people in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin delivered multiple ballots to drop boxes.
Election experts have debunked the film’s claims. It also didn’t include Oregon, though the lawsuit claimed fraud was prevalent in Eugene, Portland, Jackson County and Marion County based on unexplained analyses from two prominent election deniers.
The lawsuit sought injunctions blocking Oregon from using mail voting, which has been the standard for more than two decades, and to prevent ballots from being counted by machines.
Beckerman’s nine-page opinion didn’t get into the merits of the complaint but whether Thielman and other plaintiffs had legal standing.
Thielman was joined by state Sen. Dennis Linthicum, R-Klamath Falls, and several unsuccessful Republican candidates: Ben Edtl lost to Democratic Senate President Rob Wagner of Lake Oswego, Sandra Nelson lost to Democratic Rep. Ken Helm and Diane Rich and Pam Lewis lost local elections in Coos County, Rich for county clerk and Lewis for a county commission spot. Another plaintiff, Chuck Wiese, is a former meteorologist who denies the existence of climate change.
“Plaintiffs’ alleged injury – their lack of confidence in Oregon’s election system – is not particularized to the plaintiffs in this litigation,” Beckerman wrote. “Rather, plaintiffs allege that their lack of confidence in Oregon’s election system is shared ‘by all of Oregon’s citizens’ and is ‘a statewide issue.’ As such, plaintiffs have not alleged a particularized injury sufficient to establish standing.”
The case is among several attempts by election deniers in Oregon and elsewhere to discredit elections. A federal judge in February dismissed another case, Gunter v. Fagan, that combined three lawsuits filed by election deniers against county clerks in Washington and Wasco counties and then-Secretary of State Shemia Fagan. The lead plaintiff in that case, Jennifer Gunter, has filed an appeal and aims to prevent the state from using machines to count votes.
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