AP

Nevada elections office seeks clarity on ballot hand count

Oct 24, 2022, 3:32 PM | Updated: 8:12 pm

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A rural Nevada county’s plan to hand-count all paper ballots for the midterm elections is coming under renewed scrutiny just days before the tally is set to begin.

The sticking point: How the county will keep the ongoing vote totals from leaking publicly.

A ruling Friday from the Nevada Supreme Court allowed the hand count to move forward with several provisions, one of which was to ensure that the vote counting was not live-streamed and to figure out a way to ensure that election workers could keep the tallies secret.

Ballots cast early, either in-person or by mail, are typically counted by machine on Election Day, with results released only after polls close. Nye County, where conspiracy theories about voting machines have run rampant, wants a hand count in addition to the machine tally. The hand-count of mail-in ballots is set to start on Oct. 26, just under two weeks before Election Day to be certified by the state’s deadline.

In a letter to interim Nye County Clerk Mark Kampf over the weekend, Nevada Deputy Secretary of State for Elections Mark Wlaschin asked for a “written explanation as to how Nye County and you intend to comply with all of the provisions” of the ruling.

The Nevada Supreme Court ruled partially in favor of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit that challenged several aspects of the hand-count, including a livestream that Kampf said allows individuals to “become poll watchers at home.”

In Saturday’s letter, Wlaschin said he particularly needed to know how Nye County would ensure that observers do not prematurely learn the running results of any races. Nevada has nationally important races this year for U.S. Senate, governor and secretary of state.

Lawyers who represented Nye County responded Monday by saying only that the county “fully intends to comply” with the state Supreme Court’s Friday order.

Wlaschin did not immediately respond to a text message Monday afternoon asking if the county’s hand-count will still be permitted.

Recordings from the cameras that were originally meant to livestream the hand-count now will not be released until polls close, the county said in its response. As for the public hand-count, the county noted that they will be conducted in four to six different rooms, so viewers will not know the “totality of returns.”

Observers must sign a form saying they will not release any early results they hear. If they do release them, they could be charged with a gross misdemeanor.

“Unless we hear from you otherwise, we will assume that Nye County’s procedures for its parallel process as set forth above sufficiently comply with the Order,” Nye County’s counsel said in the Monday letter.

Hand-count tallies are done publicly for transparency, with observers in the room. Voting groups have said that raises the possibility that someone could release early results before most voters have even cast their ballot, which they have said could cause “manipulative release” and influence voter turnout.

Nye County’s hand-count of mail-in ballots is set to start Wednesday morning.

Under Nye County’s plan, hand-count teams of five will include a reader who announces each result, a verifier who looks over the reader’s shoulder and three talliers who write down the results. The talliers then compare their results before submitting them. They count ballots in batches of 50 in a public area.

In an email to The Associated Press, Kampf said he had 98 volunteers as of Monday morning.

Nye County is one of the first jurisdictions nationwide to act on election conspiracies related to mistrust in voting machines. In June’s primary, Nevada’s least populous county, Esmeralda, took more than seven hours to hand-count the results on 317 ballots cast to certify results.

Elsewhere in Nevada, Elko County’s board of commissioners signaled their support for hand-counting and paper ballots last week, although they will likely stick with machines this cycle because Election Day is so soon.

Hand-counting is mostly used in small townships across New England and rural Wisconsin. There are 658 jurisdictions in the continental U.S. that rely exclusively on hand-counting, with the vast majority having fewer than 2,000 registered voters, according to data from Verified Voting, a group that tracks voting equipment across states.

The most populous county in the continental U.S. to use only hand-counting is Owyhee County, Idaho, which had 6,315 registered voters in 2020. Nye County had over 33,000 registered voters.

It also will use machine tabulators for the Nov. 8 election. But the sheer number of ballots to be hand-counted raises questions about whether the county can meet the Nov. 17 deadline to certify results.

Kampf was appointed county clerk after the long-time clerk resigned in July, a decision she made after election conspiracies, fueled by those repeating lies about former President Donald Trump’s loss in 2020, spread throughout the county. The board of commissioners voted unanimously to recommend doing away with voting machines and count all ballots by hand.

___

Stern is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Stern on Twitter @gabestern326.

___

Follow AP’s coverage of the elections at: https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections

Check out https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections to learn more about the issues and factors at play in the 2022 midterm elections.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Arizona and New York attorneys feud over extraditing suspect...

Associated Press

Why Alvin Bragg and Rachel Mitchell are fighting over extraditing suspect in New York hotel killing

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell says she isn't into extraditing a suspect due to her lack of faith in Manhattan’s top prosecutor.

1 hour ago

A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018. A 34-year-old Color...

Associated Press

Colorado man dies after being bitten by pet Gila monster

A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet Gila monster in what would be a rare death by one of the desert lizards if the creature's venom turns out to have been the cause.

1 day ago

Police clear the area following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebr...

Associated Press

1 dead, many wounded after shooting at Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade

One person died after 22 people were hit by gunfire in a shooting at the end of the Kansas Chiefs' Super Bowl victory celebration Wednesday.

8 days ago

This image from House Television shows House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., banging the gavel after h...

Associated Press

GOP-led House impeaches Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas — by one vote — over border management

Having failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the first time, House Republicans are determined to try again Tuesday.

9 days ago

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right, and Kenya's Defense Minister Aden Duale, left, listen during...

Associated Press

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hospitalized with bladder issue

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been hospitalized following symptoms pointing to an “emergent bladder issue."

11 days ago

Follow @ktar923...

Sponsored Content by Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

Sponsored Articles

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

...

Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

Nevada elections office seeks clarity on ballot hand count