Nevada officials offer regulations as manual counting gains steam

Hand teams of four, not all from the same party. Table centers are at least 10 feet apart. 20 ballots were counted at the time.

These are some of the regulations proposed by the Nevada secretary of state’s office for how counties can count paper ballots by hand amid growing pressure on the method in some rural parts of the state where election misinformation has increased. including distrust of voting machines.

Mark Wlaschin, Nevada’s deputy secretary of state for elections, said the regulations have been in place for nearly a year and do not come in direct response to events in Nye County, where the county clerk responsible for administering elections resigned last month. last. a push to count votes by hand succeeded because of an election conspiracy.

“It was kind of an ongoing discussion across the country, really. And as election officials at the state and county level, we try to think ahead,” he said of the guidelines, which will be discussed at an online meeting with the public on Friday for feedback. the November election.

Wlaschin said the rules would help counties that choose to switch to manual counting systems, preventing clerks from drafting rules from scratch. They would also create a uniform structure so the state can ensure the count is valid. If a county wants to switch to manual counting, he said, “at least now it won’t fall to the clerk to (do) a year of research to develop his or her own template.”

Nye County is one of the first jurisdictions nationwide to act on election conspiracies that mistrust voting machines. Nevada’s least-populous county, Esmeralda, already used manual counting during the certification of June’s primary results, when officials spent more than seven hours counting 317 ballots cast.

“There are a lot of states and local jurisdictions where there’s a real push among advocates to do something like this,” said Derek Tisler, counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice’s democracy program. “But they seem to have had more success in Nevada than we’ve seen across the country.”

Opponents of manual counting have described the old-fashioned method as a way to address the lack of confidence in elections, particularly unproven claims that voting machines are prone to hacking and unreliable. Experts say manual counting not only takes much more time but also opens the process to more errors.

At the center of the hand-counting push is Mark Kampf, Nye County’s new interim clerk who repeatedly lied that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election. He wrote the framework for a new vote-counting plan that would change elections in his rural county by help from Jim Marchant, Republican secretary of state candidate and leader of the “America First” coalition of candidates who deny the validity of the 2020. election results. At a candidate forum in February, Marchant told a crowd “Your vote hasn’t counted in years.”

Kampf, Marchant and others who have lobbied to switch to a manual count are now used to questions about the procedures used in 2020. But as November approaches, Nye County officials are the ones who questions they face: How will the hand count be fair and accurate? How will they get the bipartisan workers necessary to count the vote under the proposed guidelines? How will they work in the same offices they distrusted from 2020?

In an interview during his first full day in office Monday, Kampf declined to discuss his belief that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, saying his views about that election are not relevant to his new job. Instead, he outlined his plan for paper ballots that are exactly the same as current mail ballots, personal signature verification and a live camera stream set up alongside the poll watchers so others can watch the voting process. to see too.

“I will never do anything that would jeopardize the vote and the integrity of the vote in this county,” he said.

The hand count will be accompanied by a parallel tabulation process using the same machines currently used to count mail-in ballots.

Kampf said he agrees with many of the state’s proposed manual counting rules, though he thinks teams should count 50 ballots at a time, rather than 20.

“If passed as is, I must abide by the law,” he said. “I may not like the law, but as a clerk, I need to follow the law, period.”

Any enforcement is absent from the regulations if a county fails to follow the rules. Wlaschin acknowledged there was nothing in writing but said the office had considered “several incidents” of non-compliance. Part of ensuring compliance falls on the secretary of state’s office, he said, and part of that falls on the county clerks.

Almost all Nevada counties plan to stick to machine counting.

Carson City Clerk-Recorder Aubrey Rowlatt said it would be “extremely difficult to accurately complete and certify manual ballots” within current certification timelines. However, she asked that the proposed regulations help with consistency.

Humboldt County Clerk Tami Rae Spero read the hand-count regulations and thought about the resources that would take about 17,000 in her rural county.

The teams of four and the table spacing requirements would help a hand count run smoothly, but she asked where she would get the necessary space and bipartite personnel.

“We hope we never have to,” she said.

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Stern is a member of the corps for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a national nonprofit service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on issues that are not being covered. Follow Stern on Twitter @gabestern326.

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