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Nevada orders county to stop counting disputed ballots

Nevada orders county to stop counting disputed ballots



CNN

The Nevada Secretary of State issued an order hand counting of mailed ballots In Nye County, Nevada, the state Supreme Court halted the practice after saying it violated state law.

In a letter sent late Thursday, Nevada Deputy Secretary of Elections Mark Vlaschin told Nye County Interim Clerk Mark Kampf that local officials “must immediately stop” counting the ballots. Counting, he added, “can only continue after the polls close on November 8, 2022.”

In a statement Friday morning, Nye County Rep. Arnold Knightley said local officials are still trying to find a way to resume the grueling work — a move that would allow voting machines to be discarded in future elections.

“We will not be conducting a manual count today, but our plan is to resume as per the Court Order and once approved by the Secretary of State,” Knightley said.

Nye County, a rural community northwest of Las Vegas with about 33,000 voters, made headlines this week became one of the first in the country to begin counting ballots by hand in response to conspiracy theories about the reliability of vote-counting machines supported by allies of former President Donald Trump. Nye officials still use machines to count ballots and issue official results, but Kampf said he will use a team of volunteers to count the ballots as a test of the system he hopes to make permanent in this Republican stronghold.

Nye County Clerk Mark Kampf speaks on the phone outside an early voting building on October 26, 2022 in Pahrump, Nevada.

Critics of manual counting say it is prone to errors and worry that inconsistencies between hand counts and those made by machines could increase distrust in the election process and even delay local officials from certifying election results.

High-profile and competitive races for governor, a seat in the U.S. Senate and the role of state election leader are on the ballot in this pivotal battle.

The shutdown was prompted by a state Supreme Court order to prevent manual counting from being announced early. The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, which sued to stop the counts, argued that reading each candidate’s votes aloud in front of public observers violated state law.

In a ruling late Thursday, the state’s highest court upheld the ACLU’s arguments, leaving it up to the secretary of state and Nye officials to determine next steps.

Sadmira Ramich, a voting rights attorney for the ACLU of Nevada, called the events “a victory for everyone who believes in democracy” late Thursday.

“It has become increasingly clear that our position has always been that a general election is not an appropriate way to experiment with electoral processes, and that there is no way forward with this manual counting process under the law,” Ramic said in a statement.

Jim Marchand, GOP Secretary of State nominee and known 2020 election skeptic, I was lobbied and other counties in the state will remove voting machines. He faces Democrat Cisco Aguilar.

The current incumbent, Barbara Chegavske, a Republican who defended the legitimacy of the 2020 election, is term-limited.

Most election offices use machines to count votes, and manual counting is mostly limited to smaller jurisdictions, Mark Lindeman, director of a nonprofit organization that specializes in election technology, told CNN earlier this year.

The group estimates that only a small fraction of the population — about 444,600 voters — live in communities where ballots are counted by individuals. According to the US Election Assistance Commission, more than 209 million Americans were considered active registered voters during the 2020 general election.

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