Hand Counting Suspended After Nevada Superior Court Declares Illegal

PAALLUP, Nevada (AP) — Unprecedented mail-in ballot counts in rural Nevada counties have been put on hold and county clerks may not be restored after the Nevada Supreme Court ruled after hours that the current process was illegal and directed by the Republican secretary of state. “Stop now”.

Volunteers in rural Nye County had wrapped up the second day of manual vote counts on Thursday when the Supreme Court issued a three-page opinion in support of an objection raised by the Nevada American Civil Liberties Union.

Election Secretary Barbara Cegavske, who has been one of the Republicans’ most vocal critics of the voter fraud conspiracy theory that fuels the hand-counting, said “the hand-counting process must be stopped immediately. .”

In a letter to Nye County Clerk Mark Kempf, she asked him to confirm with her office Thursday night that the lot counting process “has stopped.”

Cegavske’s office did not immediately respond to the AP’s request for an update. But the ACLU said in a statement that Nye County attorneys had notified the organization’s legal staff that “its manual counting process has been shut down.”

“Today is a victory for all who believe in democracy,” said Sadmira Ramic of the ALCU, a voting rights lawyer in Nevada.

Nye County officials and their attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Citing the court’s latest ruling, Cegavske said in the letter that the current lot-counting process is prohibited, at least until the polls close on November 11. 8.

She said “no other manual counting process” should take place until she and the county have determined whether there are any viable alternatives in line with the Supreme Court’s order.

In a three-page ruling Thursday night, the high court did not order a halt to the recount. But the court upheld arguments made by the ACLU in an emergency motion filed earlier Thursday.

The ACLU has accused Nye County officials of violating a Supreme Court order issued last week requiring votes to be counted in such a way that early results are not released publicly ahead of the Nov. 11 polls that are close to in-person voting. 8.

The ACLU has argued that reading candidates’ names aloud from ballot papers within hearing distance of public observers violated court rules.

Attorneys for Nye County said in a court filing earlier Thursday that the ACLU was engaging in “a game of political stunts and ‘trap’.” It requires the court to distinguish between observers who verbally describe the “count of votes” and observers who know the “results of the election.”

The high court said “the details of the counting process and “observer positioning” consistent with its previous order were “determined” by Nye County and the secretary of state.

On the first day of the count on Wednesday, the Associated Press and other observers, including some from the American Civil Liberties Union, watched from a Nye County office building in Pahrump, 60 miles (96 kilometers) away. Volunteers are sworn in and divided into six different rooms. West of Las Vegas.

ACLU Nevada head Athar Haseebullah tweeted what he saw as a “disaster of the process.”

On Thursday, Haseebullah provided more details about an apparently armed polling station volunteer who, he said, took an ACLU observer out of the counting room on Wednesday to question whether she was incorrect on a notepad There was a dispute over the counting of votes.

“That volunteer never drew a gun,” Haseebullah said, describing what he said appeared to be the pistol handle visible on the woman’s belt. “We were not removed from the counting site, but that volunteer did pull my team member out of the room she was observing.”

Kampf said in the county’s Supreme Court filing that the unnamed ACLU observer was taking notes, in violation of a court order that said the observer “will not prematurely release any information about the voting process.”

Some teams observed by the AP spent about three hours each counting 50 votes. A mismatch, where all three counts have different votes for a candidate, results in a recount, and sometimes a recount.

On Thursday, volunteers counted 25 ballots at a time instead of 50 — a decision Kampf made to deal with the difficulty of counting 50 ballots at a time.

“As you can imagine, the first day was a bit rough, but today things went well and there were far fewer recounts,” Kampf told KLAS-TV in Las Vegas. After counting 900 ballots on Wednesday, Kampf said he aims to count about 2,000 votes a day.

While the county plans to count every ballot manually, it still relies on Dominion voting machines as the primary ballot tabulator for this election. Kampf floats the idea of ​​scrapping machines in future elections.

In a filing last week, the ACLU sought to block manual counts ahead of Election Day, saying it threatened to release election results before a majority of voters were involved. While the state Supreme Court allowed the count to continue, it blocked plans to live-stream the count, ruling that the video would only be released after the November polls close. 8.

Thursday’s new opinion was in response to an urgent request from the ACLU for “clarification” of the previous ruling.

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

Early voting, whether in person or by mail, is usually counted by machines on Election Day, and results are announced only after voting has closed. In most places, lot counting is used on a limited basis after elections to ensure the accuracy of machine counting.

However, after residents complained about conspiracy theories about voting machines for nearly two years and false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen by former President Donald Trump, the Nye County commissioner voted to do a manual count of all ballots.

Trump won 69 percent of the vote in Nye County, although President Joe Biden won Nevada by about 2.4 percent.

Republican-nominated Secretary of State Jim Marchant has repeatedly repeated unsubstantiated election claims and said he wants to roll out manual counting to every Nevada county.


Ritter reported from Las Vegas. Sonner reported from Reno.


Stern is a corps member of the Associated Press/Report US State Capitol Journalism Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit, national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues. Follow Stern on Twitter: @gabestern326


The AP’s coverage of democracy was supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The Associated Press is solely responsible for all content.


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