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Nevada County Ordered to Stop Hand Counting Ballots

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As reported previously, hand counting of ballots was supposed to be done in rural Nye County. The Nye County Commission voted to abandon electronic voting machines in favor of hand-counted paper ballots.

Sandra “Sam”, Merlino, Nye County Clerk was forced to resign due to the 4-1 vote. The commission voted to appoint Mark Kampf as interim clerk to supervise the election. Kampf, a Republican running for the seat of county clerk is on the midterm ballot.

The Nevada Secretary of State hosted a virtual workshop in August for public input on proposed regulations to tabulate ballots by hand. This was ahead of the virtual hearing on August 26.

Kampf’s objection to the language used in the workshop during August’s hearing prompted an amendment. The regulation should not apply to counties that only use hand counting. Kampf’s proposal, however, runs ballots through machine tabulators and then checks the results by hand count. The SOS guidance was not applicable to Nye County’s “parallel Tabulation” method. Mark Wlaschin was the deputy secretary-general for elections.

These regulations can be used by county election officials if they decide to conduct a hand-counting audit or tabulation but will use a mechanical system as their primary method of tabulation.

Following a Nevada State Supreme Court decision that the method was illegal, the secretary of state’s Office has now ordered that the counting of Nye ballots be stopped. CNN reports:

The state Supreme Court ordered that hand counts be done in a manner that blocks the public from seeing the early results. This led to the shutdown. The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada had taken the matter to court to stop the count. They claimed that the state law forbids the public from hearing the candidates’ votes.

In a Thursday evening ruling, the state’s highest court sided with ACLU’s arguments. It left it up to Nye officials and the secretary of state to decide the next steps.

The ACLU of Nevada was anticipating lawsuits. The temporary regulations were approved at the hearing on August 26. However, the ACLU did not raise concerns about the early leakage of election results. Sadmira Ramic, an ALCU of Nevada attorney, stated that during the hearing.

“I believe this slippery slope will have devastating consequences for the state.” “This is a recipe for chaos and we need to fight against this backward movement in our voting process.”

Holly Welborn, with the ACLU of Nevada, called the proposal patently illegal when Washoe County looked at a similar hand-counting proposal to that in Nye County.

ACLU filed a lawsuit claiming that an armed volunteer took one of their observers out to verify they weren’t keeping track of the votes. Nye County is home to 15.6 percent of military veterans. They are also firearm-friendly. Rural Nye has approved the use of firearms in some parts of its courthouses this year. Nevada is an open-carry state that does not require permits. Armed civilians are not unusual in Nye County or elsewhere in Nevada.

Vanessa Murphy, 8NewsNow, shared a similar story online.

Nye Co. contacted me while I was watching. Clerk Mark Kampf contacted me to speak with me outside the room. I got up and walked out. He asked me if I was recording the results. I wasn’t. I showed him my notebook. He was able to see that I wasn’t recording any results. I returned to the room. I was short-changed.

Athar Haseebullah (Executive Director of ACLU of Nevada), stated that the first day of counting was “an embarrassing day in our democracy” and that “a historic catastrophe is brewing at Nye County.” He also condemned the “slow pace” of the process.

The ACLU filed suit on October 4th overhand counting. The lawsuit was dismissed on October 12. The ACLU appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court. The court ruled on October 21 that Nye County could not live stream the election as it had intended and ordered observers to refrain from disclosing information about the results of the election before Election Day. The Nevada Current reports:

Attorneys with MarquisAurbach, who represents Nye County, and Mark Kampf, the interim election clerk, wrote Monday to the secretary of state, agreeing to new conditions for the count. This included the creation of six separate rooms to count ballots, to keep observers away from the results.

After the Nye hand ballot count began on Wednesday, the ACLU filed an urgent motion.

Wlaschin, following the destruction of the state Supreme Court, wrote to Nye County’s interim Clerk on Thursday night stating that local officials were “to cease counting ballots immediately” and that the counting would not resume after November 8, 2022.

Ramic called Thursday’s counting cessation “a victory for all those who believe in democracy”.

“Our position has been that a general election is not the right avenue to conduct experiments with electoral processes.” “It has become more clear that there is no way forward for this hand-counting under the law.”

Arnold Knightly, Nye County spokesperson, stated that they will stop counting ballots until their plan is approved by the SOS.

“We won’t conduct hand counting now, but we will resume when our plan is in compliance with the Court’s order.” “It has been approved by the Secretary.”

Jim Marchant is the Republican nominee for Nevada Secretary-of-State. He lobbied Nye County in favor of the hand-counting method, believing it has increased voter confidence and turnout. 360 News interviewed Marchant.

“The Nye County Commissioners displayed great courage, and today’s results are clear. Because they are confident that their votes will be counted, and their voices will be heard, Nye County has more voters than ever.

The Republican stronghold Nye County is still developing a process to count hands with the goal of making it permanent. However, the ACLU wants to prevent them from being implemented or adopted in the near future.

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