The ACLU’s Nevada chapter filed a lawsuit Tuesday against a rural Nevada county and its interim clerk to stop the implementation of the county’s new hand-counting process, which was spurred by false claims of election fraud. The process entails hand-counting all paper ballots alongside a machine tabulator.
The lawsuit cites three main violations of the Nevada constitution, state or federal law in its claims.
The county plans to start hand-counting its mail-in ballots two weeks before Election Day, a process that the ACLU said risks public release of early voting results. The verbal announcement of each ballot’s results from hand-count teams will result in the release of election results and information, which the ACLU alleges violates state statute. The group also says Nevada statute criminalizes the release of early voting information, potentially putting the hand-count tally team members at risk of a misdemeanor.
While Nye County will use touch screens to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, that “impermissibly” permits election workers to ask about a voter’s disability or turn away otherwise eligible voters based on “arbitrary decision making,” per the lawsuit, which violates the Help Americans Vote Act.
The hand-count plan also uses “stringent signature verification,” which allows the clerk to require an ID card if a voter’s signature fails, which the ACLU said violates state statute. Normally, county clerks are required to contact the voter to ask them to confirm whether the signature used for the mail ballot belongs to the voter. Nye County’s in-person paper ballots mirror mail-in ballots.
Nye County’s hand-count is now secondary to machine-counting of hand ballots. It was originally going to be the main vote-counting method, but was adjusted, which allowed it to avoid state regulations.
Nye County is one of the first jurisdictions nationwide to act on election conspiracies related to mistrust in voting machines. Nevada’s least populous county, Esmeralda, used hand-counting to certify June’s primary results, when officials spent more than seven hours counting 317 ballots cast.
Mark Kampf, the Nye County clerk, said at a recent county commission meeting that the Dominion voting machines are a “stop-gap” measure while the county decides how to handle tallies for future elections, potentially without machines at all.
Kampf did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. In a brief interview Monday, he said he did not share the same concerns as the voting groups about the release of partial results.
“They’re only going to get a small piece of the result,” he said. “And so no one sees the total result in any place.” He added they were “just a group of ballots that are disassociated from all the other ballots.”
When discussing the touch-screen voting options at a recent board of commissioners meeting, Kampf said “we will not deny anybody that feels that they need that special assistance.”
Last week, a Carson City judge denied a progressive group’s motion to stop the Nevada Secretary of State from authorizing hand-counts.
Nevada is one of 10 states that allow local election offices to begin tabulating ballots before Election Day, but the machines that typically do that are programmed not to release results.
Under Nye County’s plan, hand-count teams of five will include a reader who announces each result, a verifier who looks over the reader’s shoulder and three talliers who write down the results. The talliers then compare their results before submitting them. They count ballots in batches of 50 in a public area.
On October 11th, Nye County released this statement:
Nye County is aware of a legal action that has been filed in the Fifth Judicial District Court against the County and its Clerk Mark Kampf. The allegations set forth in the complaint are misleading, without merit, and distort the County and Mr. Kampf’s intended course of action with respect to the upcoming general election. Overall, the current efforts to discredit the County’s electoral processes and malign Mr. Kampf have no legal basis, and in fact, only threaten to suppress the vote in Nye County. For this reason, the County and Mr. Kampf intend to mount a vigorous legal defense that clarifies the misleading allegations and disposes of the legal action as swiftly as possible. In the meantime, it is critical that all Nye County voters understand that the pending legal action should in no way create any cause for concern, nor dissuade anyone from casting a vote. More so than ever before, Nye County voters can rest assured that the electoral process will be fair, transparent, and in accordance with Nevada law. Indeed, the County and Mr. Kampf have complied with all applicable laws and regulations, and will ensure that anyone who is eligible and wants to vote, will be able to do so in accordance with Nevada law.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)