Hand vote count stops, but Nevada county vows to try again

Oct 28, 2022, 10:09 AM | Updated: Oct 29, 2022, 5:51 am
Interim Nye County Clerk Mark Kampf speaks on the phone outside of a building where early votes are...

Interim Nye County Clerk Mark Kampf speaks on the phone outside of a building where early votes are being counted Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022, in Pahrump, Nev. Ballot counting began in the county where officials citing concerns about voting machine conspiracy theories pressed forward with an unprecedented hand tally of votes cast by mail in advance of Election Day. (AP Photo/John Locher)

(AP Photo/John Locher)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A rural Nevada county roiled by voting machine conspiracy theories stopped its unprecedented effort Friday to hand count ballots cast in advance of Election Day.

But Nye County officials vowed to reshape their plan and seek another go-ahead from the Nevada Supreme Court, after justices ruled late Thursday that counting methods used this week violated rules they set to prevent the county from allowing early disclosure of election results.

“Yesterday’s Supreme Court order requires us to make some changes to our hand count process,” Nye County officials said in a statement issued Friday that promised to “resume as soon as our plan is in compliance with the court’s order and approved by the secretary of state.”

No counting had been scheduled Saturday or Sunday, county spokesman Arnold Knightly said.

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada said Friday they stood ready to challenge any effort to restart the hand tallies next week. They don’t believe there’s any hand-counting scenario that would pass legal muster.

“Our position has always been that a general election is not an appropriate avenue for conducting experiments with election processes and it has become increasingly clear that there is no path forward for this hand counting process under the law,” said Sadmira Ramic, ACLU of Nevada’s voting rights attorney

Volunteers spent hours Wednesday and Thursday hand counting hundreds of mail ballots before the court issued a unanimous three-page opinion siding with objections raised by the ACLU.

The civil rights advocacy group accused Nye County officials of failing to prevent public release of early results before polls close to in-person voting Nov. 8. It argued that reading candidates’ names aloud from ballots within hearing distance of public observers violated the court rule.

On Wednesday, The Associated Press and other observers, including some from the ACLU, watched as volunteers were sworn in and split into groups in six different rooms at a Nye County office building in Pahrump, 60 miles (96 kilometers) west of Las Vegas.

Some teams the AP observed spent about three hours each counting 50 ballots. Mismatches, where all three talliers didn’t have the same number of votes for a candidate, led to recounts.

Immediately following the court’s Thursday decision, Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske and Mark Wlaschin, the state’s top election officials, ordered the count to stop until after polls close on Nov. 8.

“No alternative hand-counting process may proceed,” Cegavske said a letter to interim Nye County Clerk Mark Kampf, until the counting method complies with the Supreme Court’s Oct. 21 order.

Cegavske has been a GOP critic of voter-fraud conspiracy theories that fueled hand tallying of ballots in the state. She defended results of the 2020 election as reliable and accurate, was censured by her party for her stance, and is not seeking reelection.

The sprawling county between Las Vegas and Reno, is home to about 50,000 residents, including about 33,000 registered voters. The county reported receiving nearly 4,700 ballots as of Wednesday.

Ballots cast early — in-person or by mail — are typically counted by machine on Election Day, with results released after polls close. In most places, hand counts are used after an election on a limited basis to ensure machine tallies are accurate.

Nye County commissioners voted to hand-count all ballots after complaints by residents echoing nearly two years of conspiracy theories related to voting machines and false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump.

Trump won 69% of the vote in Nye County, but Democratic President Joe Biden won Nevada by about 2.4%.

Kampf plans to use Dominion voting machines as the primary vote tabulators for this election, but has floated the idea of scrapping the machines in future elections. The effort to begin the hand count of mail ballots is a nod to the time the process takes and a bid to meet a state certification deadline on Nov. 17.

Nye is the most prominent county in the U.S. to change its vote-counting process in reaction to the conspiracy theories — even though there has been no evidence of widespread fraud or manipulation of machines in the 2020 election, including in Nevada. The decision prompted the long-time county clerk to resign. Kampf was appointed to replace her.

Nevada has one of the most closely watched U.S. Senate races in the country, as well as high-stakes contests for governor and the office that oversees elections.

The Republican nominee for secretary of state, Jim Marchant, has repeated unsubstantiated election claims and said he wants to spread hand-counting to every Nevada county.

Athar Haseebullah, executive director of the ACLU of Nevada, vowed to continue to challenge any hand-counting attempt in Nye County or elsewhere.

“While Nye County’s actions might be a sign of things to come, our response to their actions is also a sign of things to come,” Haseebullah said. “We will combat all efforts to destroy our democracy up and down Nevada. We welcome the fight.”

____

Associated Press writers Scott Sonner and Gabe Stern in Reno, Nevada, contributed to this report. 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

____

Associated Press coverage of democracy receives support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

___

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

FILE - A flu vaccine is readied at the L.A. Care and Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plans...
Associated Press

Flu season worsens as 44 states report high activity

NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. flu season keeps getting worse. Health officials said Friday that 7.5% of outpatient medical visits last week were due to flu-like illnesses. That’s as high as the peak of the 2017-18 flu season and higher than any season since. The annual winter flu season usually doesn’t get going until […]
21 hours ago
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin introduces the B-21 Raider stealth at Northrop Grumman Friday, De...
Associated Press

Keep COVID military vaccine mandate, defense chief says

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT (AP) — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he wants to keep the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate in place to protect the health of the troops, as Republican governors and lawmakers press to rescind it. This past week more than 20 Republican governors sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Family says coyote attacked toddler outside LA home

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A coyote ambushed and injured a 2-year old girl outside her Los Angeles home in a daytime attack before her father chased the animal off, her family said. Home security video obtained by KTLA-TV shows the animal grab and drag the toddler across her lawn and sidewalk, just seconds after her […]
21 hours ago
FILE -  Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz, speaks during a press conference at the American University of Beir...
Associated Press

Longtime Arizona GOP Rep. Jim Kolbe dies at 80

PHOENIX (AP) — Jim Kolbe, a Republican congressman who represented a heavily Democratic region of Arizona for more than two decades and was a proponent of gay rights, has died. He was 80. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said in a statement that Kolbe died Saturday. Ducey ordered flags lowered until sunset Sunday. Kolbe served in […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Fan buying famed ‘Goonies’ house in Oregon, listed for $1.7M

ASTORIA, Ore. (AP) — The listing agent for the Victorian home featured in the “The Goonies” film in Astoria, Oregon, said this week the likely new owner is a fan of the classic coming-of-age movie about friendships and treasure hunting, and he promises to preserve and protect the landmark. The 1896 home with sweeping views […]
21 hours ago
New Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna is sworn in by the Honorable Samantha Jersey, Presiding ...
Associated Press

New LA sheriff vows accountability, integrity for department

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The new head of the nation’s largest sheriff’s department vowed Saturday to usher in an era of integrity and collaboration after his predecessor’s tenure was marked by clashes with other public officials and allegations that ganglike groups of deputies ran amok within the agency. Robert Luna took an oath of office […]
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
...
SCHWARTZ LASER EYE CENTER

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
Hand vote count stops, but Nevada county vows to try again