Return envelope for King County signature update form

A Repub­li­can major­i­ty of U.S. Supreme Court jus­tices have demol­ished the 1965 Vot­ing Rights Act, a land­mark achieve­ment of the civ­il rights move­ment, as well as using the 2010 Cit­i­zens Cor­po­ra­tions Unit­ed deci­sion to remove restraints on cam­paign spend­ing begun when Theodore Roo­sevelt was president.

At the low­er court lev­el, how­ev­er, the Grand Old Par­ty has con­tin­ued to suf­fer loss after loss, par­tic­u­lar­ly with the Trump attempt to over­turn the out­come of our 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and attacks on vot­ing laws in states which have sought to make it eas­i­er to cast ballots.

The Seat­tle-based bicoastal Perkins Coie law firm used to be a white shoe out­fit, known for two sig­na­ture clients, the Boe­ing Com­pa­ny and Puget Sound Pow­er and Light. Long­time Boe­ing CEO William Allen and Puget Pow­er boss (lat­er Seat­tle Mariners pres­i­dent) John Ellis were alum­ni of the firm. Such were pil­lars of the busi­ness wing of Repub­li­can­ism in the Ever­green State.

In recent years, how­ev­er, P‑C has devel­oped a spe­cial­ty in elec­tion law, and has come to rep­re­sent Democ­rats… includ­ing the state par­ty, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­ate Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, and Barack and Michelle Oba­ma. Two of Pres­i­dent Clinton’s picks to the U.S. 9th Cir­cuit Court of Appeals came from Perkins Coie.

The firm rep­re­sent­ed Maria Cantwell in the post-elec­tion bat­tle over her 2,229-vote 2000 upset of Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Slade Gorton.

Perkins Coie was in Chelan Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court, suc­cess­ful­ly defend­ing Gov­er­nor Chris Gregoire’s 133-vote 2004 vic­to­ry over Dino Rossi.

It han­dled the pro­longed lit­i­ga­tion, after the 2008 elec­tion, that sent for­mer Sat­ur­day Night Live come­di­an Al Franken to the U.S. Senate.

Perkins Coie fought off Trump chal­lenges to Pres­i­dent Biden’s 2020 cap­ture of Geor­gia and has defend­ed Democ­rats’ 2022 vic­to­ries in Arizona.

It suc­cess­ful­ly sued to over­turn actions by Montana’s Repub­li­can-run leg­is­la­ture that sought to make it dif­fi­cult for Native Amer­i­cans to vote, and to put obsta­cles in the way of col­lege voters.

Nat­u­ral­ly, then, Perkins Coie was picked by three groups – El Cen­tro de la Raza, Wash­ing­ton Bus and VetVoice – to chal­lenge the sig­na­ture ver­i­fi­ca­tion require­ments in Washington’s vote-by-mail sys­tem.

They’ve recent­ly filed suit in King Coun­ty Super Court, argu­ing that the require­ment vio­lates the Wash­ing­ton State Con­sti­tu­tion as thou­sands of legit­i­mate vot­ers grap­ple with hav­ing their bal­lots reject­ed. The rejec­tions fall dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly on Black vot­ers, young peo­ple, and the disabled.

Enter the Republicans.

There have long been rum­bles in the Repub­li­can ranks over how “easy” it is to vote in the Ever­green State, even though our elec­tions were long under super­vi­sion of five suc­ces­sive Repub­li­cans hold­ing the office of Sec­re­tary of State.

The state Repub­li­can Par­ty, with some fan­fare, sought to inter­vene in the sig­na­ture case, joined by the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee. They were bent on defend­ing sig­na­ture ver­i­fi­ca­tion. The root rea­son, in words of RNC Chair Ron­na McDaniel: “Mail-in vot­ing increas­es the oppor­tu­ni­ty for fraud.”

“And they brought in the big guns, Trump’s lawyers from the Consovoy McCarthy law firm, and paired them with the team from Davis Wright that rep­re­sent­ed Dino Rossi in his failed con­test over the 2004 elec­tion,” report­ed Perkins Coie lawyer Kevin Hamil­ton, vet­er­an of the Cantwell, Gre­goire, Franken and Geor­gia bat­tles, in an amused memo.

They lost. King Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court Judge Cather­ine Shaf­fer has denied the motion to inter­vene. “If there’s one thing this case does not need, it’s Trump’s lawyers try­ing to defend the inde­fen­si­ble,” Hamil­ton chortled.

The Repub­li­cans’ phi­los­o­phy on lit­i­ga­tion is nev­er to spend one dol­lar when two (or more) will do. Judge Shaf­fer may have saved the par­ty some mon­ey, need­ed until recent­ly (when he announced his can­di­da­cy) to pay Trump’s legal bills.

And embar­rass­ment.

A few years back, the Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union – rep­re­sent­ed by Perkins Coie – sued the city of Yaki­ma over city-wide elec­tion of city coun­cil and school board mem­bers. More than forty per­cent of the city’s pop­u­la­tion is Lati­no and His­pan­ic, but no Lati­no or Lati­na had ever won elec­tion to any city office.

The city fought against the suit, filed under the Vot­ing Rights Act, and spent through the nose. The plain­tiffs’ legal briefs were so con­vinc­ing, how­ev­er, that a fed­er­al judge deliv­ered a sum­ma­ry judgment.

The com­po­si­tion of the Yaki­ma City Coun­cil was for­ev­er changed.

About the author

Joel Connelly is a Northwest Progressive Institute contributor who has reported on multiple presidential campaigns and from many national political conventions. During his career at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he interviewed Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and George H.W. Bush. He has covered Canada from Trudeau to Trudeau, written about the fiscal meltdown of the nuclear energy obsessed WPPSS consortium (pronounced "Whoops") and public lands battles dating back to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

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