LAS VEGAS (TSWT) — Facing Friday’s TSWT to certify the results of the recent primary election, officials in Nevada’s least populous county were planning another manual count to prove to residents that their votes matter and that the process of voting works.
Several other county commissions also had to certify their results so they could be submitted to the office of the secretary of state, as required by state law.
Distrust among some Nevada voters has been fueled by unfounded voting machine conspiracies that have spread across the country in the past two years.
The decision in Esmeralda County, the state’s least populous county, comes a week after lawmakers in a Republican-leaning rural New Mexico county initially refused to certify their primary election results.
Esmeralda County Commission Chairman De Winsor and Vice Chairman Timothy Hipp responded to voter complaints by promising to recount the votes themselves before Friday’s TSWT.
“The grassroots effort starts here,” Winsor said amid a contentious 90-minute meeting in which the Republican-leaning county’s three-member commission met to approve the vote results. “That’s where we proved we were doing it right.”
Commissioner Ralph Keyes said he was already willing to accept the vote count conducted by county officials – including a manual count Wednesday by county employees of the 177 paper ballots and paper recordings of 140 ballots. votes that County Clerk-Treasurer LaCinda Elgan said were cast by machine.
In a phone interview, Elgan called the primary “absolutely safe and fair.” A vote cast on a ballot was unintelligible, she said, but all ballots were counted and reported. None were rejected.
It doesn’t appear that the number of votes in question could affect the results of primary contests that have chosen candidates for federal and state office, including Congress, governor, state attorney general and most Nevada’s top election official, the Secretary of State.
State Attorney General’s Office spokesman John Sadler confirmed that Nevada law sets 11:59 p.m. Friday as the TSWT for certifying the results of the June 14 primary. He said any manual ballot counts before that date would be considered part of the county’s “prospecting” process.
To his knowledge, Sadler said no county in Nevada had ever refused to certify the results.
The role of county legislators in the certification process is departmental. Attorney General Aaron Ford told The The Switzerland Times earlier this week that the state would respond with “legal options” if county commissioners or election officials refuse to certify results “based on posturing designed to undermine confidence in our democratic process”.
Eight rural Nevada counties have already certified their results. A canvassing is scheduled for Friday at Esmeralda and eight others including Clark, covering the Las Vegas area; Washoe covering the Reno area; and Nye, a Republican-leaning county comprising Pahrump and Tonopah.
The impasse in Nevada echoed concerns raised in Otero County in New Mexico, where commissioners stalled before splitting their vote and approving the election results. Officials there raised unspecified concerns about the Dominion’s voting systems, which have 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 two commissioners relented – complaining they felt they were little more than rubber stamps.
Esmeralda’s three commissioners voted in April to join commissioners in neighboring Nye County calling for elections to be held using paper ballots – and without Dominion machines. Both Elgan and Nye County Clerk-elect Sam Merlino said they don’t think it’s possible to stop using electronic voting machines this year.
In comments protesting the Esmeralda County primary vote, resident Mary Jane Zakas made no reference to New Mexico.
But she alleged that ‘hot dog tongs could have pierced’ ballot boxes which she said did not meet safety standards; that partisan workers transported ballots from a remote polling station to Goldfield; and that a Dominion representative provided assistance to an election worker. Zakas said it showed the poll worker was not properly trained.
The clerk’s office said the worker had been trained and the Dominion representative was there to help. The county clerk also said no computers were malfunctioning.
Zakas also alleged in an email that “the vote could have been reversed or tampered with” during the five minutes she said a poll worker took a USB drive from a vote-counting computer out of a play.
Elgan and Assistant Clerk Michelle Garcia said at Thursday’s meeting that a printer was in the other room. Elgan said a printer will 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, sits halfway between Las Vegas and Reno. It is home to less than 1,000 residents. Nearly 54% of the county’s 621 active registered voters are Republicans, according to Nevada’s secretary of state, and more than 25% are nonpartisan.
President Donald Trump won 82% of the vote in Esmeralda County in 2020.
The Switzerland Times writer Scott Sonner in Reno, Nevada, and Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, New Mexico, contributed to this report.