Mark Kampf, an election denier recently appointed as Nye County clerk, called the rule approved Friday “a significant improvement.” (Nevada Current file photo)
The Secretary of State’s office approved a temporary regulation on hand-count paper ballots, a proposal that stemmed from unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election, that was amended based on feedback from election deniers and exempts Nye County from complying.
Because Nye County plans on using a process with hand-counting and mechanical tabulation, “in that case the regulations are recommended but not required,” Jennifer Russell, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State, confirmed via email.
Sadmira Ramic, a voting rights attorney with the ACLU of Nevada, said that allowing hand-counting is a “slippery slope that will have consequences for the state” that includes hindering the certification of election results.
“Our primary concern is the use of hand-counting in general,” Ramic said. “The Secretary of State’s office, by passing these regulations, is condoning the use of hand counting while ignoring the urgency of the issues such procedures would produce. The counties that are doing this are solely doing this based on false allegations of election fraud during the 2020 election.”
The temporary regulation, which was approved Friday, goes into effect until Oct. 1 and lasts until November 2023.
Following rural counties moving toward hand-counting paper ballots, a switch promoted by election denier and secretary of state candidate Jim Marchant, the secretary of state’s office drafted a proposal to regulate the process.
Mark Wlaschin, the elections deputy with the secretary of state’s office, said they adjusted language after soliciting feedback from various people including Mark Kampf, an election denier recently appointed as Nye County clerk who has endorsed hand counting.
One of the changes from the original draft language clarified hand count to mean “specifically to the determination of election results where the primary method of counting does not involve the use of a mechanical voting system.”
Wlaschin said for hand-counted audits or in cases where the primary voting tabulation uses a mechanical system, “these regulations in essence are recommendations but not required.”
“If one of the 17 election officials decides to only use hand count tabulation and not use mechanical tabulation devices at all in the process of tabulating the results of the election, then these regulations are required,” he said.
Best practices from around the country, Wlaschin said, showed when hand counting to limit 20 batches of ballots being counted at a time, which was included in the original proposed language.
Wlaschin said after “some of our discussion with Mr. Kampf and others’ feedback” the office increased the number in the regulation to 50.
Ramic questioned why the office changed the regulation to go against best practices.
“You had highlighted it was based on studies taken regarding human ability to remain in that repetitive motion and the ability to remain concentrating on anything past 20 would cause more error,” she said.
Wlaschin said counties proceeding with hand counting could independently decide to limit to batches of 20. He added the regulation is only temporary and the Secretary of State’s office could revisit the limitation in the future.
Kampf called the amended language “a significant improvement to the first draft.”
The ACLU of Nevada, All Voting is Local, the Brennan Center for Justice and Silver State Voices have opposed the regulation.
César Carvajal, the democracy manager with Silver State Voices, said hand-counting ballots will cause an “unnecessary strain on election departments” and open elections to vulnerabilities of “human error it would inevitably bring.”
“Apart from diminishing the accuracy, efficiency and security of elections, the hand counting of ballots is bound to cause additional mayhem when it comes to certifying elections,” he said. “It will impact outcomes not only at the local level but also nationally.”
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