The people have voted — now what?
Results will likely be delayed because of mail ballots, hand counting
More than a year of campaigning. Millions of dollars of advertising. Thousands of glossy flyers clogging mailboxes. Thousands more texts. A lot of crazy claims and political conspiracies on social media. And even a couple of debates.
It all ended Tuesday — kind of.
While voters may have issued the final word Tuesday on races that have national implications and have drawn national media attention, results from many of them are still pending.
When polls closed across Nevada at 7 p.m., counties began reporting election results to the state, and voters got some insight into who will lead them for the next two, four or six years.
But final election results could take days.
Why? It’s a feature of the greater reliance on mail-in ballots, which began during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic as a way to keep lines at polling places short and protect voters and election workers from exposure to the coronavirus. The policy of mailing every active registered voter a mail ballot was made permanent in 2021.
Under the law, any ballot postmarked by Tuesday and received by the county by Saturday will be counted, which means outstanding mail ballots will continue to be tabulated through next week. Those vote totals could change the results, especially in close races. The county has to finish counting ballots by next week, and certify the election by Nov. 18.
As of early Wednesday morning,Nye County election officials released some preliminary results that showed challenger Joe McGill with a 27-point lead over incumbent Sheriff Sharon Wehrly after early in-person and mail ballots received so far had been counted. The Tonopah Times-Bonanza & Goldfield News/Pahrump Valley Times will update local election results on pvtimes.com once they become more clear.
In this election for the first time in modern voting history, Nye County has opted to use paper ballots and hand counting, although Mark Kampf, interim county clerk, has said the county will also use voting machines to count ballots in a parallel process. Results here may be delayed longer than in other parts of the state.
Before the polls opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday, a long line of 100-plus voters stretched outside the Bob Ruud Community Center in Pahrump.
Photographer John Clausen, who was there to shoot for the Pahrump Valley Times/Tonopah Times-Bonanza & Goldfield News, said many didn’t want to talk to him about the election because he was wearing a press vest and media credentials.
“Lots of mistrust,” he reported, adding that many Pahrump voters declined to even provide their party affiliation on the record.
Nye County has been at the epicenter of national media attention since officials announced earlier this year that the voting process would move to a more traditional method of paper ballots and hand counting for its general election.
There’s been a number of legal challenges to the election plan since then. The latest complaint from the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada claims that there have been “coordinated partisan election administration efforts in Nye County” which is dominated by Republican officials.
The ACLU claims one of its observers who was watching Nye County’s preliminary hand count before the secretary of state ordered the process to be halted was removed from an observation room in late October by a person openly carrying a gun. That person was later identified as Nye County Republican Party Central Committee Vice Chair Laura Larsen, a volunteer helping to administer local elections.
“A partisan official from the Nye County GOP Central Committee given free range to roam the halls and remove those engaging in observation violates the core principles underlying free and safe elections and makes an even greater mockery of our democracy,” said ACLU of Nevada Executive Director Athar Haseebullah in a statement, following its complaint about local election.
Marquis Aurbach, the Carson City-based firm representing the clerk’s office responded in a four-page statement following those allegations, saying the claims made by the ACLU largely lack merit.
“This is nothing nefarious,” attorneys with the firm said. “[Nye County Interim Clerk] Kampf should be lauded for his commitment to transparency.”
The new local election policies aim to open the democratic process, making the elections more observable for those who might question their inegrity.
Lawyers for the county clerk argue that Nevada is also an open-carry state. “…meaning that individuals such as Ms. Larsen have every right to carry a holstered firearm. We are unaware of any law or regulation that prevents individuals or poll workers/volunteers from open-carrying at a polling facility,” they said.
“Importantly, what is missing from Mr. Haseebullah’s letter is any indication that Ms. Larsen brandished her firearm, threatened to use it, or even put her hand on it – our understanding is that none of these things occurred.”
Kampf, a Republican, trained poll workers and other volunteers from his own party as well as Democrats to oversee this year’s election, lawyers for the county clerk’s office added.
Contact Editor Brent Schanding at email@example.com. Contact Steve Sebelius at SSebelius@reviewjournal.com.