Election Group Demands Voter ID Opponents Reimburse $600K in Taxpayer Funds

Group wants attorney fees reimbursed after Soros-backed lawsuit dismissed

Marc Elias, an attorney leading legal challenges against voter ID laws / AP

An election integrity group is calling on the plaintiffs who recently lost a challenge against Virginia’s voter identification laws to reimburse hundreds of thousands in taxpayer-funded attorney fees that it cost to argue the lawsuit.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation, an Indiana-based election integrity group, filed a motion in August of last year to assist the state of Virginia against the voter ID lawsuit that was backed by funds from liberal billionaire George Soros.

Last week, a federal court dismissed the lawsuit, saying it found no reason to believe the voting laws in Virginia made it harder for eligible minority voters to cast a ballot.

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The attorney fees, which were paid for by Virginians, eclipsed $600,000. The Public Interest Legal Foundation said that the provision used by the lawsuits has a fee shift in which a loser pays the attorney fees. Winning attorneys can also request that fees by shifted.

J. Christian Adams, president of the election integrity group, said Virginia’s attorney general should instruct the lawyers to reimburse money that was used for litigation purposes.

"Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring must instruct his outside lawyers to seek reimbursement for the money wasted on this meritless voter ID lawsuit," Adams said. "Failing to seek reimbursement for defending against a meritless case isn’t fair to Virginia taxpayers."

"If George Soros wants to waste his money fighting election integrity, that’s one thing," Adams continued. "Wasting taxpayer money is something different."

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of the Democratic Party of Virginia by Marc Elias, a partner at the D.C.-based law firm Perkins Coie. Elias is also the top lawyer for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, although he acted independently of the campaign on the lawsuit. The Clinton campaign did publicly back Elias’s efforts.

Throughout the two-week trial, dozens of witnesses took the stand as the plaintiffs argued that the state’s voter identification law, known as SB 1256, discriminated against minorities.

The plaintiffs argued that the law violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and also the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by placing an undue burden on minority. They contended that the law was enacted to hinder African Americans, Latinos, and young people in their efforts to vote.

The lawsuit was dismissed on all counts.

Elias’ efforts are part of a broader campaign against voter identification laws that began in early 2014.

Liberal attorneys planned to take on Republican-dominated legislatures that had enacted voter ID laws in recent years. Soros became involved by pouring at least $5 million into the effort.

Elias submitted lawsuits against three states in 2015. The first suit in the series was brought forward in Ohio on May 8, 2015. On June 1, a second lawsuit was filed in Wisconsin. On June 11, Elias filed the suit against Virginia.

Additional lawsuits that did not involve Elias were filed last year challenging voter identification laws.

One lawsuit was filed in Alabama and submitted by an attorney who is a donor to Hillary Clinton and works at the same law firm as Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general who challenged such laws in a previous job.

Elias did not return a request for comment on the dismissal of the Virginia lawsuit.