LAS VEGAS (AP) – The Trump campaign and Nevada Republicans on Friday called on a state judge to stop counting mail-in ballots in the Las Vegas area, alleging a “significant sighting” verification of signatures is not possible in the largest and most democratic county.
A complaint filed in state court less than two weeks before the Nov. 3 election complains that observers were not allowed to come close enough to workers and machines at the busy counting center to see if the ballots votes which obtain the validation of the second and third stages must be rejected.
Carson City Judge James Wilson declined to issue an immediate order to stop the count, but scheduled a hearing next Wednesday on the demand.
The battle is the latest among legal skirmishes across the United States amid President Donald Trump’s doubts over issues such as voter registration, voters lists and postal ballot delays caused by the pandemic.
“There has been great concern about whether the lists are clean and the properly registered voters are the ones who receive the ballots, sign them and mail them,” said Nevada President Co-Chair Adam. Laxalt. “All we want is to be part of the signature verification process and have the ability to challenge a signature by mail.”
Laxalt recalled memories of the legal battle over the 2000 presidential election, which was ultimately decided in mid-December by the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore.
But postal voting “wasn’t much of a problem until someone started tweeting about it during a presidential year,” said Amber McReynolds, head of the National Nonprofit Institute. lucrative Vote At Home, which advocates the expansion of postal voting.
Trump has taken to Twitter on several occasions to cast doubt on the widespread use of postal ballots, suggesting it encourages fraud.
“It seems to me that Clark County is doing nothing different than counties in other states,” said McReynolds, a former chief electoral officer in Denver. She said the Las Vegas area is one of many people now using computers with software to compare signatures before passing the ballots with verification questions to humans.
“Postal voting has been extended without a problem in the Red and Blue states,” said McReynolds, including Florida, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Nebraska, Montana, Kentucky, Oregon , California, Georgia and its home state, Colorado.
The lawsuit alleges Clark County Registrar of Electors Joe Gloria did not get the proper approval in April from Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske for his plan to accommodate the observers. He is asking for a court order to “prohibit … the processing and counting of ballots until the proper procedures are in place.”
He also complains that an offer by the GOP to install video surveillance equipment at the Clark County Election Headquarters was rejected.
Laxalt, a former Nevada attorney general, said in an interview that it seemed too few ballots were being rejected.
“It’s hard to believe that there is only a 1% rejection rate,” Laxalt said, citing state election data showing that more than 98% of the 190,000 mailed ballots received at this day in Clark County were accepted as valid. He noted that once a signature is verified, no campaign can challenge that vote.
In 2016, Nevada counties reported that 1.6% of returned absent ballots were rejected, according to data collected by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Nationally, around 1% of postal votes were rejected that year.
State Democrats called the lawsuit an “outright” attempt to suppress votes in the state’s most diverse county. The US census puts the population of Clark County at over 31% Hispanic, 13% Black, and about 10% Asian American.
In a statement, the party referred to a lawsuit dismissed by a federal judge in September that sought to block state law enacted as part of emergency pandemic measures to allow ballots to be sent. by mail to all active registered voters in Nevada. The legislature, controlled by the Democrats, passed the law according to party principles. The Democratic governor signed it in August.
The Las Vegas federal judge said Republicans and the Trump campaign had failed to show how they would be harmed by the law. The decision has not been appealed.
“Throughout this election, Trump and the Republicans have used baseless attacks to undermine confidence in Nevada’s electoral integrity,” the Democratic Party statement said.
Las Vegas-area voter and volunteer tally observer Fred Kraus is the main plaintiff in the lawsuit, which was filed in the Nevada capital because the Republican Secretary of State is a defendant.
Cegavske spokeswoman Jennifer Russell said she could not comment on an ongoing trial.
Clark County has more than 70% of the state’s nearly 1.75 million active voters. Registered Democrats number more than 504,000, compared to around 351,000 Republicans and 300,000 without party affiliation.
County registrar Gloria said in an interview before the lawsuit was filed that the treatment of votes in the Las Vegas area was safe, fair and non-partisan, and observers were allowed even under the distancing rules. social.
Allowing a party to install and control cameras and keep recordings for itself would be inappropriate, he said, and would violate state law prohibiting public photos or videos at the counting center.
Gloria added that changing operations now would be difficult. Early voting in Nevada began on October 17.
Ballots are rejected in every election, even under the best of circumstances, and national authorities say problems could be made worse this year as millions of voters cast their ballots by mail for the first time due to electoral changes imposed by the coronavirus.
Some ballots are usually not counted because they arrive too late in the mail, voters forget to sign them, or the signatures do not match the one on the records at local election offices.
A large number of uncounted ballots could be used to cast doubt on the election.
This story has been corrected to show that the Secretary of State is a defendant, not a plaintiff.
AP reporters Sam Metz in Carson City and Christina Cassidy in Atlanta contributed to this report. Metz is a member of the body of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative, a national nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on undercover issues.