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ACLU lawsuit against Nye County paper ballot rules dismissed

RENO — A Nye County District Court judge Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit challenging the county’s plan to hand-count paper ballots in the 2022 elections because vital documentation referenced in the legal action was not provided to the court.

The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada last week, contends Nye County’s hand-counting procedures would violate both state and federal law. The lawsuit was based largely on a presentation detailing those procedures, which was made during a Nye County Board of County Commissioners meeting by county Clerk Mark Kampf, who is also named in the lawsuit.

But lawyers with the ALCU didn’t provide a written transcript or recording of those comments, and requiring the court to seek them out is “unreasonable,” according to the motion.

“It is unreasonable for Petitioners/Plaintiffs to require the Court to access the September 20, 2022 BOCC meeting from the Nye County website and watch a 7 hour and 23 minute video to find Kampf’s presentation,” District Court Judge Kimberly Wanker wrote in the motion. “It is not the Court’s obligation to search through the internet references presented in the Emergency Petition to locate the information Petitioners/Plaintiffs want the Court to review.”

Not decided on merits

ACLU of Nevada Executive Director Athar Haseebullah slammed the judge’s decision, which he said was “not based on any merits associated with the matter.”

“From our vantage point, none of her decisions were actually rooted in any law that’s applicable in Nevada. There was no meritorious undertaking of the case,” Haseebullah said. “Her failure at this point to hear the case on the merits, to schedule it for a hearing and to do what she should have done, is forcing us to have to go to the Supreme Court and expend additional resources to make sure that those including Nye County voters with disabilities have equal access to the polls.”

Haseebullah said the organization expects to have an appeal filed with the Nevada Supreme Court in the “next 24 to 36 hours.”

In the lawsuit, the ACLU contends the verbal announcement of each ballot’s results, which would be made by counting teams, could result in the premature release of elections results, a move that violates state law.

The lawsuit also alleges the procedures would violate the Help America Vote Act and the state constitution because the county’s plans to provide disabled voters with touch screens would allow election workers to inquire about a voter’s disability and could allow them to turn away an eligible voter based on “arbitrary decision making,” according to the lawsuit.

Voter ID

The ACLU also alleges the county’s “stringent” signature verification that allows elections workers to require voters to show an ID if their signature doesn’t match the state record violates state law.

The county clerk’s office announced last month that it would use paper ballots and hand-counting alongside voting machines in the next election, following false claims of election fraud.

After previously declining to comment on the lawsuit, Nye County released a statement yesterday in which it pledged to “mount a vigorous legal defense” and called claims in the suit “misleading” and “without merit.”

“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,” the county said in the statement.

Haseebullah said it wouldn’t be the last of legal action the county is likely to see.

“One thing that Nye County and other counties in Nevada that are seeking to suppress the right to vote are forgetting: We’re not here for one legal challenge,” he said. “We will challenge every act of voter suppression in courts up and down the state until that suppression no longer exists. So they should get used to seeing us.”

Contact Taylor R. Avery at TAvery@reviewjournal.com. Follow @travery98 on Twitter.

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