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Republicans sue Clark County — again — over ballot counting

Updated October 28, 2020 - 9:32 pm

The Nevada Republican Party and President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign have filed their second election-related lawsuit against Clark County in a week, this time alleging the county failed to comply with several extensive public record requests pertaining to signature verification on mail ballots.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday night in Clark County District Court, asks the court to compel the county to release voluminous records on how signatures on mail-in ballots are verified, as well as information on who does the checking, what training they receive, what signatures they use for the comparisons and various other details.

In response to these requests, the county told GOP lawyers it could not release the personal information of election staff until after the election’s final canvass because of security reasons.

It could also not fulfill such large requests before the canvass, county counsel Maryanne Miller said in her response, because key election staff is focused on the administration of an ongoing election. She also noted that some of the records the Republicans asked for do not yet exist, and the county does not fulfill requests based on future documents.

The county also requested Republican lawyers coordinate their requests through the lawsuit filed against Clark County Registrar Joe Gloria and Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske in Clark County last week. A judge in that case has already denied the Republicans’ attempt to force the county to stop counting ballots.

A hearing in the Carson City lawsuit was scheduled for Wednesday morning, and a county spokesman was not able to immediately comment on the latest lawsuit because he was attending the hearing on the first lawsuit. As of Wednesday morning, there were no hearings scheduled in the Republicans’ latest lawsuit in Clark County.

Seeking ballot verification

According to the newest lawsuit, Republicans filed a request under Nevada’s Public Records Act on Oct. 16 and asked for the following: names and political party affiliations for each member of the bipartisan counting board that checks each mail-in ballot, the party makeups of each shift for each processing day from Oct. 15 until Nov. 12, and names and shift times of “ambassadors” who speak to poll watchers.

In Miller’s response, the county identified the political party makeup of the board and ambassadors but declined to disclose their names for security reasons.

The board comprises 40 Democrats, 35 Republicans and 15 nonpartisans. One Democrat, three nonpartisans and one unregistered voter make up the ambassador positions. Currently, Democrats constitute 40.1 percent of the Clark County electorate and Republicans account for 28.5 percent.

On Oct. 19, Republicans requested information on all policies and procedures given to election staff and volunteers “regarding the receipt, processing and tabulation of ballots,” as well as any scripts or instructions that employees use when contacting voters about their ballots.

The Republicans also asked for the names of any employees who make those calls or drive ballots, any correspondence with voters, security procedures for the ballots, correspondence with the Nevada secretary of state’s office and “any and all correspondence with any official, representative, candidate or delegate from the Democratic Party regarding the 2020 general election.”

On Friday, the Republicans requested pictures of every signature on every mail or absentee ballot counted in the general election (as of Wednesday morning, there were more than 294,000 such ballots), as well as the signatures on file with the county used to verify these ballots.

So far, the mail ballots have trended heavily in Democrats’ direction. More than 158,000 of the 294,000 in Clark County were submitted by Democrats, compared with 63,000 from Republicans.

Trump campaign co-chair Adam Laxalt said last week the campaign needs to be able to challenge any signatures it finds suspect during the vote-by-mail process.

Republicans also requested information on how many ballots have been rejected by the county’s signature verification machine and various staff members tasked with checking signatures. The lawsuit claims the county has no grounds to reject these requests, as the information asked for is not confidential.

Nationwide trend

This is the fourth time Republicans or conservative groups have attempted to sue election officials in Nevada this year.

Trump and the state party unsuccessfully attempted to block new election measures passed in July by the Nevada Legislature. Assembly Bill 4 called for all active voters to receive a mail-in ballot and expanded early voting sites in times of crisis, such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

True the Vote, a conservative group that opposes the expansion of vote-by-mail, unsuccessfully sued the state to block plans to mail ballots to all active voters during the June primary.

The Carson City and Clark County lawsuits make three and four.

“These pointed, partisan attacks reveal just how desperate the GOP is to suppress Nevadans’ voices in the most diverse county in our state,” Nevada State Democratic Party spokeswoman Molly Forgey said in a statement. “By now, the Trump campaign has a well-established pattern of launching frivolous suits when things aren’t going their way.”

Representatives for Trump’s campaign and the state GOP did not respond to a request for comment.

The Nevada complaints are part of an deluge of election-related lawsuits filed by Republicans in battleground states across the country, such as Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

Democrats have also sued in Nevada and other states, often seeking the relaxation of signature verification requirements, extended deadlines for counting mail ballots and an increase in polling places or mail ballot access.

Contact Rory Appleton at rappleton@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0276. Follow @RoryDoesPhonics on Twitter.

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