Volunteers in Nye County were directed to cease hand-counting ballots immediately after the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that the current process is illegal.
In a three-page opinion, the state Supreme Court sided with objections raised by the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, which argued that the count was being conducted in a way that violated state law as it allowed public observers to hear results before polls closed on Election Day, according to reporting by The Associated Press.
Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske sent a letter to Nye County’s top election administrator on the second day volunteers were wrapping up the hand count, clarifying the previous Supreme Court order.
“Nye County’s current parallel hand count process violates the Supreme Court’s orders… which prohibits the early release of voting results,” the letter said.
The court also blocked a plan to livestream the vote counting, saying video could be released only after polls close on Nov. 8.
“No alternative hand counting process may proceed until the Secretary of State and Nye County can determine whether there are any feasible ‘specifics of the hand-count process and observer positioning’ that do not ‘violate [the Supreme Court’s] mandate,'” Cegavske wrote.
During the hand count, multiple teams of five people split into separate rooms to count batches of 50 ballots while reading results from each ballot for talliers to mark down.
Two groups that The Associated Press observed Wednesday spent nearly three hours each counting 50 ballots. “Several noted how arduous the process was, with one volunteer lamenting: ‘I can’t believe it’s two hours to get through 25’ ballots,” according to the AP.
Several experts have also pointed out that hand-counting ballots can lead to widespread errors and result in long delays, making machine counting more reliable and accurate.
Typically, ballots that are cast early, whether they’re in-person or by mail, are counted by machine on Election Day and released after polls close. But Nye County commissioners voted to run a hand count of all its early ballots before Election Day to avoid missing the state’s Nov. 17 certification deadline.
The county was still using the Dominion voting machines as the primary vote tabulators for this election, but County Clerk Mark Kampf has floated the idea of removing the machines in future elections, according to reporting from the AP.
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In the rural Nevada county, voting machine conspiracy theories have been brewing since former President Donald Trump’s loss in 2020 even though there has been no evidence of any tampering.
Nevada’s Republican nominee for secretary of state, Jim Marchant, also suggested that officials “dispose” of all their electronic voting and tabulation machines at a county commission meeting earlier this year.
Kampf, who is a close ally of Marchant, replaced longtime county clerk Sam Merlino in August after she decided to step down from her role when the county commission voted unanimously to recommend hand-counting ballots, the AP reported.
The ACLU of Nevada, which sued Nye County this month over its plans to livestream the counting and read the vote tallies out loud, praised the court’s decision.
“Nye County’s hand-count process for its short-lived lifespan was an utter disaster fueled by conspiracy theorists,” said Athar Haseebullah, executive director of the ACLU of Nevada. “While Nye County’s actions may be a sign of things to come, our response to their actions is also a sign of things to come.”
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