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Audit resolves voting irregularity questions

Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax said Wednesday that he has "reconciled" five discrepancies in early voting alleged by Republicans this week.

But Lomax, appearing at a news conference called by Secretary of State Ross Miller to calm fears of voting irregularities, would not say how he has cleared up the discrepancies.

"I’ve been able to resolve it. I know what happened," Lomax said. "But I’m not going to claim that at the end of the election I can account for every ballot. There will be unexplained votes on voting machines."

Lomax said his audit of the balloting will be made public when he reports to the Clark County Commission after the election.

Unsubstantiated accusations spread by both Republicans and Democrats are creating a "fraud is in the air" atmosphere as the election draws to a close, Lomax said.

A large portion of the allegations are being generated as a result of the hard-fought, nationally watched race between Democratic U.S. Sen. Harry Reid and Republican challenger Sharron Angle.

"This kind of feeding frenzy we’re experiencing right now I think is unjustified," Lomax said. "I can see where the flames are getting fanned by certain people."

David O’Mara, legal counsel for the Nevada Republican Party, raised questions about early voting in a Monday letter to Miller.

O’Mara said daily polling logs kept by election officials in Clark and Washoe counties showed the number of ballots cast was larger than the number of voters who signed the election registers at seven early voting sites, five in Southern Nevada and two in Northern Nevada. The count was off by two ballots at one site, and by one each at six others.

"These troubling discrepancies suggest that these voting machines may have recorded extra votes erroneously, or that people were allowed to cast votes without signing up (thereby potentially allowing them to cast multiple ballots)," O’Mara wrote.

Miller said the discrepancies O’Mara pointed out were likely explainable, but his securities administrator, Carolyn Ellsworth, was pressing ahead with her investigation. Ellsworth said she hopes to complete her inquiry and report her findings prior to the election, but wasn’t sure whether she could make that deadline.

"I’m making good progress," Ellsworth said. "Preliminarily, I’m very satisfied with the answers that I getting. I’m trying to do this as quickly as I can, but also as thoroughly as I can."

Ellsworth said she has spoken with Lomax and intends to meet with Washoe County Registrar of Voters Dan Burke in Reno today .

Miller said he’s determined to root out any voter fraud or election violations. But he said the Nevada Election Task Force he set up in 2008 has not yet received any formal complaints this year, despite numerous media accounts that have repeated "rumor and speculation."

"Sherlock Holmes and Colombo had something," Miller said. "They’re giving us nothing, other than these rumors that just keep circulating."

Afterward, Miller told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that his news conferences in Las Vegas and Reno were intended to assure the public that the election is running smoothly.

He said his office has been flooded with calls and e-mails from people saying they’ve heard the unsubstantiated reports of widespread voter fraud, including allegations that voting machines in Southern Nevada were "pre-calibrated" to cast votes for Reid.

"That is technologically impossible," Miller said. "We have an absolute obligation to set the record straight to assure the public that we have a 100 percent confidence in the system that their votes will be counted fairly and accurately, and to dispel these kind of unfounded rumors."

Both Republicans and Democrats linked to the bitter U.S. Senate race have circulated an array of unsubstantiated allegations. Republicans, for example, have alleged that teacher’s union representatives were trying to buy votes for Reid with Starbucks gift cards.

Lynn Warne, president of the Nevada State Education Association, said Wednesday that the cards were not given to would-be voters, but rather to volunteers working "as part of a larger get-out-the-vote campaign."

Democrats have alleged that the Angle forces have mounted an "all-out" campaign to "suppress and intimidate voters."

On Wednesday, Reid spokesman Jon Summers, said the Angle campaign was distributing literature in Hispanic neighborhoods to discourage voters from going to the polls, but he offered no specific examples.

Miller said his office has received no formal complaints of campaign workers either trying to buy the election or trying to intimidate voters.

Miller, a Democrat, said after the news conference that he was aware of concerns circulating among Republicans that his office would have trouble fairly overseeing a recount in the tight Senate race.

"I understand how closely they’re monitoring this particular election here," Miller said. "I know that there are concerns out there. If we get to that point in any of the contests that are on the ballot, the laws of Nevada are very clear as to the process.

"A recount is really administered by the local election officials, with our office ensuring that the election laws are followed," he continued. "I can assure the public that it will be a transparent process, and the public will have a full opportunity to observe and ensure that we’re following the statutes."

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal. com or 702-380-8135. Read more courts coverage at lvlegalnews.com.

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