Nevada Rural County Delays Approval of Primary Voting Results

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Elected officials in a rural Nevada county decided Thursday to delay certification of the results of the 317 ballots cast in their jurisdiction during the state’s June 14 primaries until Friday.

The decision in Esmeralda County, the least populous county in the state, comes a week after lawmakers in a Republican-leaning rural New Mexico county initially refused to certify their primary election results.

Esmeralda County Commission Chair De Winsor and Vice Chair Timothy Hipp responded to complaints about the voting process with a promise to recount the votes themselves before an end-of-day Friday mandated by state election law.

“The grassroots efforts start here,” Winsor said halfway through a controversial 90-minute meeting at which the three-member Republican county committee met to sign the results of the vote. “Here we have proven that we are doing well.”

Hipp was out of town and joined the meeting by conference call. He said he could be back in the county seat, Goldfield, by 2 p.m. Friday to begin counting the ballots. Audio of the meeting was streamed on the Internet.

County District Attorney Robert Glennen III advised Winsor and Hipp that they could adjourn the meeting to meet again at 2 p.m. Friday.

The third commissioner, Ralph Keyes, said he was already ready to accept the vote counting conducted by county officials — including a manual count on Wednesday by county employees of the 177 paper ballots and paper records of 140 ballots that were sent. Registrar Treasurer LaCinda Elgan said they were machine cast.

In a telephone interview, Elgan noted that a deputy clerk, Michelle Garcia, was conducting the primaries because Elgan was on the Republican ballot for reelection. She got 57.5% of the vote.

Elgan called the Esmeralda primaries “absolutely safe and fair.”

One vote cast on one ballot paper was incomprehensible, she said, but all the ballots were counted and reported. None were rejected.

It did not appear that the number of votes in question could affect the results of primary contests that selected candidates for federal and state offices, including the United States Senate, Congress, the Governor, the State Attorney General, and the highest-ranking election official in Nevada, the Secretary of State.

The spokesman for the attorney general’s office, John Sadler, confirmed that Nevada law sets 11:59 p.m. Friday as the deadline to certify the results of the June 14 primary, and said any manual counting of the ballots before then would be considered part of the province’s “canvas” process. † Sadler said that to his knowledge, no Nevada county has ever refused to certify results.

State law makes the role of provincial lawmakers “ministerial only,” Attorney General Aaron Ford said in a statement Wednesday in response to questions from the AP. If district commissioners or election officials refused “on an attitude intended to undermine confidence in our democratic process,” the statement said, “the state will take legal options.”

Ahead of Friday’s deadline, eight rural Nevada counties have certified the primary vote, including Lyon County on Thursday afternoon. Recruitment is scheduled for Friday in Esmeralda and eight others, including Clark, who will cover the Las Vegas area; Washoe covering the Reno area; and Nye, a Republican-oriented province including Pahrump and Tonopah.

Results from Nevada’s 17 counties go to the Secretary of State, who “cannot reject or otherwise accept the results,” said Jennifer Russell, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican.

“If a Nevada county refuses to certify, we would work with the[Attorney General’s]office to determine a way forward,” Russell said.

The Nevada standoff echoed concerns voiced in Republican-leaning Otero County in rural New Mexico, where commissioners stalled before splitting their vote and approving the election results† Officials there cited unspecified concerns about Dominion voting systems, a target of widespread conspiracy theories since the 2020 presidential election.

New Mexico’s Democratic Secretary of State appealed to that state’s Supreme Court to intervene before two commissioners relented — complaining that they felt they were little more than stamps.

The three commissioners in Esmeralda voted in April to join the commissioners in neighboring Nye County calling for elections with paper ballots — and without Dominion machines. Elgan and Nye County town clerk-elected Sam Merlino both said they did not consider it feasible to stop using electronic voting machines this year.

In email and personal comments protesting the Esmeralda County primary vote, resident Mary Jane Zakas did not refer to New Mexico.

But she claimed that “hot dog tongs could have broken” ballot boxes that she believed did not meet safety standards; that partisan workers drove ballots from a remote polling station to Goldfield; and that a representative of the Dominion assisted an election official. Zakas said that showed that the polling officer was not properly trained.

Elgan and Garcia replied that the worker had been trained, but the Dominion representative was there to help. The town clerk said no computer was out of order.

Zakas also claimed in her email that “the vote could have been reversed or manipulated” during the five minutes she said a pollster was carrying a voting computer USB stick from a room.

Audio streamed from the meeting, Elgan and Garcia replied that there was a printer in the other room. Elgan said a printer will be installed in the counting room before the general election.

‘We have a problem. People don’t trust the system,” Zakas told the commissioners. “We have a situation where a lot of people are really concerned about the safety of their voice.”

Esmeralda County, a former mining area, is located about halfway between Las Vegas and Reno. It is home to less than 1,000 residents. Nearly 54% of the county’s 621 active registered voters are Republicans, according to the Secretary of State of Nevada, and more than 25% are impartial.

President Donald Trump won 82% of the vote in Esmeralda County in 2020.

This story was updated to correct that no computer malfunctioned. This story has also been updated to correct the District Attorney’s last name. He’s Robert Glennen III, not Glennon.

Associated Press writer Scott Sonner in Reno, Nevada, and Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, New Mexico, contributed to this report.

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