To comply with court ruling, Nye County says vote totals won’t be released early

The hand-counting will not be livestreamed

By: - October 25, 2022 5:38 am

Hand-counting advocate, conspiracy theorist and Republican candidate for Nevada secretary of state Jim Marchant has contended voting machines can be “flipped” to switch votes, a popular notion among election deniers, and one that former President Donald Trump’s own attorney general, William Barr, described as “idiotic.”

Nye County, which was recently forced by the Nevada Supreme Court to amend parts of its plans for hand-counting ballots, assured the secretary of state’s office in a letter Monday that to comply with the ruling it won’t livestream the counting or otherwise prematurely release election results.

The Nevada Supreme Court unanimously ruled Oct. 21 that Nye County has to “refrain from livestreaming the hand-count read-aloud process prior to the close of the polls” on Nov. 8 and requires observers to not release any information regarding election results before Election Day voting is completed.

The ACLU of Nevada, which sued the county over its election process, argued Nye’s plans violated state and federal law and worried livestreaming and early release of results would give candidates an unfair advantage. The Supreme Court ruled a livestream violates state statute.

Mark Wlaschin, the elections deputy with the secretary of state’s office, asked Nye County to provide a written explanation of how the county plans to comply with the provisions from the court’s decision, including how it intends to “ensure public observers do not prematurely learn any election results.”

In a letter written by attorneys with Marquis Aurbach, which is representing the county, they said instead of live streaming “the recordings from the cameras in the hand-count rooms will not be released until the close of all polls as determined by the Secretary of State’s office.”

“At the earliest, the recordings will not be released until the morning following the election,” they wrote. 

The ACLU of Nevada, which sued the county over its election process, was still reviewing the letter Monday afternoon and wasn’t able to provide feedback on Nye’s proposed changes. 

The letter also said the county plans to have four to six different rooms tallying ballots to prevent observers from learning the results. 

“As such, by simultaneously spreading the hand count among various rooms, not a single observer will be able, even if they wanted to, to learn the totality of the vote count (i.e. election results),” according to the letter. 

Observers, according to the letter, will also be required to “declare under the penalty of perjury that, among other things, they will not undertake any efforts to interfere with, obstruct or otherwise impede the election.”

Nye County is one of several jurisdictions that proposed and adopted a slew of changes to the election process that stem from baseless allegations of election fraud and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. 

Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, reviewed allegations of election issues following the 2020 election and found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

Yet, Republican Secretary of State candidate Jim Marchant, an election denier who has repeated conspiracy theories about voter fraud, joined other election deniers in appealing to rural counties, including Nye County, to dump Dominion voting machines and switch to hand-counting paper ballots.  

Marchant and others push a conspiracy that the machines can be “flipped” to switch votes, an allegation so bizarre that even former President Donald Trump’s own attorney general, William Barr, described it as “idiotic.”

Nye’s longtime elections clerk Sandra Merlino, who warned hand-counts lead to “a lot of error,” retired ahead of the election and commissioner appointed Mark Kampf, who falsely claimed former Trump won the 2020 election. 

Kampf announced plans ahead of the election to do a hybrid election process with machine tabulation and a hand-count, and the ACLU of Nevada filed a lawsuit earlier in October. 

In a statement following Friday’s ruling, Sadmira Ramic, a voting rights attorney with the ACLU of Nevada, said the decision “supports our freedom to vote and makes it clear that every county must follow all of Nevada’s election laws.” 

“Nye County’s proposed processes were illegal, and it was important that we brought this challenge to protect voters and our democracy,” Ramic said. “As we move forward into early voting and onto Election Day, we will be rolling out the largest legal observation and poll monitoring program the ACLU of Nevada has ever done, and we will be ready to jump into action to fight back voter suppression.”

This wasn’t the only legal action trying to prevent hand-counting ballots. 

The Nevada Secretary of State’s office adopted a temporary regulation in August to establish  regulations for counties seeking to conduct elections by hand-counting paper ballots. Because Nye County sought a dual counting process, it was exempt from following those regulations

After the state began moving forward with a regulation, the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada filed a lawsuit trying to block it, 

The lawsuit, which was unsuccessful, alleged that the state was depriving Nevadans of their rights to a uniform, statewide standard for counting votes. 

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Michael Lyle
Michael Lyle

Michael Lyle (MJ to some) has been a journalist in Las Vegas for eight years. While he covers a range of topics from homelessness to the criminal justice system, he gravitates toward stories about race relations and LGBTQ issues.