Nevada counties face deadline to certify election results

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Facing a Friday deadline to certify the results of the recent primary election, officials in Nevada’s least populous county are planning another hand count to prove it to residents. were that their votes mattered and that the voting process worked.

Several other county commissions were also set to certify their results so that they could be sent to the Secretary of State’s office, as required by state law.

The distrust of some voters in Nevada has been fueled by baseless voting machine conspiracies that have spread across the country over the past two years.

The decision in Esmeralda County, the least populous county in the state, comes a week after lawmakers in the Republican-leaning rural New Mexico county refused to certify their primary election results.

Esmeralda County Commission Chairman De Winsor and Vice President Timothy Hipp responded to constituents’ complaints with a promise to recount the votes before the Friday deadline.

“This is where the grassroots effort begins,” Winsor said in the middle of a controversial 90-minute meeting in which a three-member commission in the Republican-leaning county met to sign off on the results of the vote. “That’s where we proved we do it right.”

Fellow commissioner Ralph Keys said he was prepared to accept the counting of votes already done by county officials — including a hand count Wednesday by county staff of 177 paper ballots, county clerk-treasurer Lacinda Elgan said. and contains paper records of 140 ballots. were inserted by machine.

In a telephone interview, Elgan called the primary “absolutely safe and fair”. He said a vote cast on a ballot paper was incomprehensible, but all ballots were tallied and reported. None were rejected.

It does not appear that the number of votes in question could affect the results of primary contests, in which candidates for federal and state offices were chosen by Congress, the governor, the state attorney general and the top election official in Nevada, including the secretary of state.

John Sadler, a spokesman for the State Attorney General’s office, confirmed that Nevada law sets Friday 11:59 p.m. as the deadline to certify the results of the June 14 primary. He said any hand counting of ballots prior to this would be considered part of the county “canvas” process.

To his knowledge, Sadler said that Nevada County had never refused to substantiate the results.

The role of county lawmakers in the certification process is ministerial. Attorney General Aaron Ford told the Associated Press earlier this week that if county commissioners or election officials refused to certify the results “on the basis of a posture designed to undermine confidence in our democratic process,” So the state will respond with “legal alternatives.”

Eight rural Nevada counties have already certified their results. Covering the Las Vegas area, Esmeralda and Clark, including eight others, have promotional events scheduled for Friday; Washo covering the Reno area; and Nye, a Republican-leaning county that includes Pahrump and Tonopa.

The standoff in Nevada echoed concerns raised in New Mexico’s Otero County, where commissioners halted before splitting their vote and approving election results. Officials there cited unspecified concerns with the Dominion voting system, which has become a target since the 2020 presidential election.

New Mexico’s Democratic Secretary of State appealed to that state’s Democratic Supreme Court to intervene before the two commissioners relented — complaining they felt they were little more than rubber-stamps.

Three commissioners in Esmeralda voted in April to join commissioners in neighboring Nye County, calling for elections to be held using paper ballots and without Dominion machines. Elgan and Nye County’s elected county clerk, Sam Merlino, both said they do not believe it is possible to stop using electronic voting machines this year.

In comments opposing the Esmeralda County primary vote, resident Mary Jane Zakas made no reference to New Mexico.

But he alleged that “hot dog tongs could have been breached” ballot boxes which he said did not meet safety standards; that partisan activists carried ballots from a remote polling place to Goldfield; and that a Dominion representative assisted an election worker. Zakas said it showed the polling worker was not properly trained.

The clerk’s office said the worker was trained, and a Dominion representative was there to help. The county clerk also said no computer was damaged.

Zakas also alleged in an email that “votes could have been flipped or tampered” during the five minutes she said a polling worker took a thumb drive from a vote tally computer outside a room.

Elgan and deputy clerk Michel Garcia said during Thursday’s meeting that there was a printer in the other room. Elgan said a printer would be installed in the counting room for the general election.

“We have a problem. People don’t trust the system,” Zakas told the commissioners. “We have a situation where a lot of people are really concerned about the security of their votes.”

Esmeralda County, a former mining boom area, is roughly halfway between Las Vegas and Reno. It is home to less than 1,000 residents. According to the Nevada Secretary of State, about 54% of the county’s 621 active registered voters are Republican, and more than 25% are nonpartisan.

President Donald Trump won 82% of the vote in Esmeralda County in 2020.

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Associated Press writers Scott Sonner in Reno, Nevada and Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, New Mexico contributed to this report.

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