'Stop the Steal' Group Fined Over Lack of Evidence in Voter Fraud Lawsuit

Washington state's Supreme Court has imposed more than $28,000 in fines on an "election integrity" group and its lawyer for providing scant evidence for its lawsuit alleging state officials illegally registered non-citizens to vote.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Wednesday announced his office had convinced the court to impose sanctions for what he called an attack on democracy and the legal system. The fines are the latest setback for the "Stop the Steal" movement fueled by former President Donald Trump's repeatedly debunked claims that widespread voter fraud marred the 2020 presidential election.

The Washington Supreme Court ordered nonprofit Washington Election Integrity Coalition United to pay $9,588.80 and its attorney, Virginia Shogren, to pay $18,795.90.

The sanctions stem from a petition Shogren filed on behalf of the group in October 2021 with the state Supreme Court that alleged Governor Jay Inslee and other officials sought to actively register non-citizens to vote. To support its claims, the group's petition includes an affidavit describing a statement from a retired state Department of Licensing employee who said she witnessed department employees registering non-citizens to vote.

The state's high court dismissed the group's petition, saying it "offers no competent evidence of voter fraud based on non-citizen voter registration."

 Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson
An "election integrity" group and its lawyer were fined more than $28,000 after Washington state's Supreme Court ruled they provided insufficient evidence in a lawsuit accusing state officials of unlawfully registering non-citizens to vote. Above, Washington State's Attorney General Bob Ferguson, center, announces his decision on potential action regarding then-President Donald Trump's immigration order, on March 9, 2017, in Seattle. Karen Ducey/Getty Images

"Attorneys and organizations who attack our democracy and abuse our legal system must face accountability," Ferguson said in a statement. "We will continue fighting to protect our elections from these baseless lawsuits that push 'the Big Lie.'"

Ferguson, a Democrat, also said he would file a bar complaint against Shogren.

"Its almost as if they are intent on discouraging any case that will shine a bright light on one of the ways our electoral system is fatally flawed," Washington Election Integrity Coalition United wrote in a statement on its website responding to the sanctions.

The group, based outside of Seattle, said in the statement that it "presented report summaries showing there were tens of thousands of non-citizens who were registered in multiple counties."

Tamborine Borrelli, the group's director, told Newsweek in a statement Friday that the group still has separate active lawsuits in eight of the state's counties and that two candidates for Congress have signed on as plaintiffs. The statement from Borrelli also reiterated allegations that the state Supreme Court ignored evidence supporting the group's petition.

After Democrat Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election, audits and courts (including the U.S. Supreme Court) across the country have rebuffed Trump's insistence the vote was "rigged" against him. Some attorneys who have pursued these claims elsewhere have faced discipline, notably Trump ally Sidney Powell.

"Every time the president makes these kind of flamboyant remarks that are just designed to inflame the base of the Republican Party, and to cast doubt on the outcome of the election, it undermines our democracy," Kim Wyman, Washington's then-Republican secretary of state, told Seattle's KING-TV in November 2020.

Loren Culp, Washington state's 2020 failed Republican gubernatorial candidate, filed a lawsuit alleging widespread irregularities and fraud. However, Culp's attorney withdrew the challenge after Ferguson's office threatened sanctions for pursuing what it called a "baseless" lawsuit.

Newsweek has reached out to Shogren and for comment.

Update 6/3/22, 6:50 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with comment from the Washington Election Integrity Coalition United.