Threats of voter intimidation, extremist violence cloud midterms

By: - November 3, 2022 5:45 am

San Francisco, Calif. attorney Paul More answers voters’ questions at the Stupak Community Center polling place on Nov. 2, 2004 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

The effort to turn out the vote in Nevada for the 2022 midterms may be complicated by the lingering hangover from 2020, when Republicans, spurred by Donald Trump, scoured the U.S. for signs of voter fraud.  

“Go into the polls” and “watch very carefully,” Trump urged his supporters two years ago, igniting suspicions that buoyed Trump’s sore-loser campaign, and resulted in a flurry of fraud accusations, countless court challenges that proved futile, and potential damage to the election process that has yet to be quantified.

Last week, the U.S. government warned that domestic terrorists pose a heightened threat to the midterm elections, and law enforcement is on alert. 

“Potential targets of DVE (domestic violence extremists) violence include candidates running for public office, elected officials, election workers, political rallies, political party representatives, racial and religious minorities, or perceived ideological opponents,” the government said. 

The bulletin came the same day House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband was attacked in the couple’s San Francisco home by a man demanding to know “Where’s Nancy?” 

“During this election cycle the LVMPD has partnered with local election officials and other law enforcement agencies to provide a safe environment,” says a spokesperson for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, which says it has previously collaborated with other agencies on election security. “The LVMPD will respond to any disturbances or assistance when requested.”

A study published last December found that the presence of police at a polling place is associated with a 32 percent reduction in African American participation. The study said it was the first to quantify the effect of police presence on voting in the United States.

Washoe County and the state’s Department of Public Safety did not provide plans for election preparations.

Despite Trump’s unfounded accusations of thousands of deceitfully-cast ballots in Nevada, the state has no history of widespread voter fraud, and thus far, is bereft of the gun-toting ‘observers’ that prompted a federal judge to clamp down after voter intimidation allegations surfaced in Arizona. 

But if social media sites are any indication, mistrust of the election process and warnings of fraud are rampant in Nevada. 

And once again, the calls are coming from inside the house.

Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Adam Laxalt, taking his cue from Trump, began sowing doubt in the 2022 election early, as he did in 2020.

“There is no method of voting that is more ripe for fraud than mail-in voting.” Laxalt said in June 2020, while protesting the state’s COVID-inspired evolution to widespread voting by mail.

More than a year ago, Laxalt suggested he’d file pre-emptive lawsuits ahead of the 2022 election to challenge provisions of state law. He has not done so. 

Republican candidate for secretary of state Jim Marchant is carrying the election-denier baton into the 2022 general contest. He wants to end early voting and favors hand-counting, which experts say would open elections to more, not less fraud.

Republican gubernatorial candidate and Metro Sheriff Joe Lombardo, Clark County’s top law enforcement officer during three elections, has dipped his toe in election-denier waters, but has refrained from taking the plunge. 

Lombardo told the Reno Gazette Journal earlier this year that he doesn’t know if the 2020 vote count was accurate. He favors enhanced voter ID requirements and supports a bipartisan election integrity commission that would have authority to audit county election results. 

“Lombardo is trying not to be an election denier while trying not to piss them off,” says UNLV Political Science associate professor Rebecca Gill. “Its clear to me that Lombardo never has believed that there was significant election fraud, because he’s not a stupid man.” 

I would imagine that if voter intimidation issues occur in Clark County, Sheriff Lombardo’s participation would be limited to taking credit for stopping voter suppression during a press conference.”

– Athar

But Gill says Lombardo has missed the opportunity to use his platform as a candidate and sheriff to denounce the lies and distinguish himself from the rhetoric.

“He’s pussyfooting around. Of late, he’s attempting to back away from the election denial stuff,” she says. “But he hasn’t done enough to make it clear to MAGA folks that you shouldn’t intimidate people.” 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada announced it’s filed a complaint with the Secretary of State regarding alleged “coordinated partisan election administration efforts in Nye County,” when Nye County GOP Central Committee Vice Chair Laura Larsen, who was “openly carrying a firearm,” according to a news release, ordered an ACLUNV observer removed from watching a hand count last week, before Sec. of State Barbara Cegavske ordered the count to stop.  

ACLUNV says it’s had no reports of voter intimidation reported to its hotline.

In the event allegations of intimidation or election worker threats arise, can Lombardo credibly function as both chief law enforcement officer and head of the state Republican ticket?

“In Clark County, Lombardo’s presence on the ballot could make people think they won’t get in trouble for voter intimidation,” Gill says, adding the potential conflict of interest would be worse if Lombardo were a true election denier. 

Athar Haseebullah, executive director of ACLU of Nevada, dismisses Lombardo’s influence on Metro’s actions, suggesting he ceded actual control long ago, only “appearing when there are cameras rolling. I would imagine that if voter intimidation issues occur in Clark County, Sheriff Lombardo’s participation would be limited to taking credit for stopping voter suppression during a press conference.” 

“We haven’t seen the type of out-and-out lawlessness around polling places or ballot drop boxes that our neighbors in Arizona have,” says Gill. “I’m hoping things will continue to stay calm. Certainly, I think it would be far worse for voter and poll worker safety to have someone like Kari Lake or Doug Mastriano running for Governor.”

Voter intimidation is a felony in Nevada, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, which issued a guide to laws in Nevada and other states “where the risk of disruption has been especially high based on the volume of false allegations and anti-voter activity….”  

Poll watchers are prohibited from speaking to voters. State law also requires poll watchers to wear an identifiable uniform provided by poll workers.

Electioneering (campaigning) is prohibited within 100 feet of the entrance to a polling place.

Threats and intimidation of election officials and poll workers have surged in recent years, according to law enforcement, resulting in a shortage of poll workers. Democratic secretary of state candidate Cisco Aguilar wants to make it a felony to threaten an election worker.

This year, the Republican National Committee unsuccessfully attempted to obtain the names and party affiliation of poll workers in Clark County.

Since the 2020 election, top election officials in 10 of Nevada’s 17 counties have quit, retired or declined to seek office again, according to Reuters.  

The Nevada Democratic Party’s voter protection hotline is 877-959-DEMS (3367).  The ACLU of Nevada voter hotline is 866-OUR-VOTE.

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Dana Gentry
Dana Gentry

Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.