Updated June 29, 2022 - 1:01 pm
As Clark County commissioners certified the results of the 2022 primary election Friday, dozens of voters claimed that there was fraud in the process. Others spewed insults at the county employees who ran the election.
The county’s election review found no errors in vote tabulation, Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria said. However, that didn’t stop a slew of voters voicing their concerns in the public comment period in what ended up being a 2½-hour meeting.
The Review-Journal spoke with Gloria on Tuesday to address those concerns. He disputed claims of fraud, which he said mostly stem from misunderstandings in how elections are run in Clark County.
“This was the most transparent that we’ve ever been in Clark County,” he said.
Some voters said they saw Wi-Fi available at polling locations and were concerned that election machines are vulnerable to outside actors. Is that true?
“People saw Wi-Fi because polling places are sometimes in locations where Wi-Fi is available for free. We use Mi-Fi, which is locked up through cybersecurity measures that don’t allow anybody to log into our network and routes through what is essentially a VPN.
Voting machines are never connected to the internet. They are standalone units. “The only thing that is hooked up to the internet are the electronic poll books that are used so voters can sign in because we need to update those in real time to make sure people don’t do something illegal, like trying to vote twice,” Gloria said.
Poll books include a database of voters in the county that track who has voted, and where. Internet connectivity is required so that each poll location can be in sync in real time to prevent people form attempting to vote at more than one location.
“For instance, if you went downtown to historic Fifth Street (School) and voted, if all the poll books weren’t connected, you could go straight to RTC and Meadows mall and cast votes at all those places,” Gloria said.
Party affiliation and other information is sometimes printed on the outside of ballot envelopes, and some people believe that violates the concept of a secret ballot. What does a secret ballot mean in an election?
“The complaint they are lodging there is actually a statutory requirement. Because we have a closed primary, we’re required to name the voter’s party so there’s no confusion on what ballot the voter will be using when they go to a voting machine.
The secret ballot has to do with privacy in casting your actual vote, so that no one knows for whom you voted, either in a voting booth or, when voting by mail, the secrecy of placing your voted ballot in an envelope and returning it to the county.
“It was painful for me to hear that they were upset about that,” Gloria said. “That’s something that’s statutorily required and would take legislative action to change.”
At the meeting, some voters said they were given provisional ballots and don’t believe they were counted. How do provisional ballots work?
“Provisional ballots only go to someone registering for the first time, brand new,” Gloria said. “Then we have to research to make sure they are in fact eligible to vote and should be allowed to cast their ballot, and wait from a report from the secretary of state to make sure they haven’t voted in another county” before the ballot is counted.
“All of those provisional ballots are counted. There is not a ballot submitted to us, whether through the mail, in-person or provisional that is not counted. That is a myth. A lot of people say the mail ballots aren’t counted unless it’s a close race. That’s not true. All ballots that are received are counted, regardless of the tally. If they’re eligible to be counted, they are counted.”
We heard some complaints from voters saying they received mail-in ballots they had not asked for, or their mail-in ballot was delivered to the wrong address. How do you better educate voters on the rules of mail-in ballots in Nevada?
“Well in our defense, mail-in voting is new to us. Although we’ve always had mail-in ballots, sending them to all voters is brand new. So it’s even more critical for those voters to keep in mind that they need to update our records leading into every election, which they can do online. We don’t know that you’ve moved unless you tell us.”
The first election in which mail ballots were sent to all active registered voters was during the pandemic, in 2020. Under a change made by the 2021 Legislature, mail ballots now are sent automatically to all active registered voters.
On Friday, some speakers claimed that poll workers directed voters of certain political parties to certain voting machines. They were concerned that voters of one party’s votes were getting thrown out wholesale. What was actually going on?
“That’s actually a best practice we train our poll workers to do,” Gloria said, “Every voting machine has a paper printout so every voter can check on the veracity of their ballot. If we just haphazardly direct voters to the 20 machines at a polling site, and voters just use the closest ones as they come in, by the end of the day the six or seven machines will run out of paper. That will create an issue with replacing paper, and there will be fewer machines for the evening rush.
“It’s more prevalent in early voting where we can have machines going for 14 days. That’s something we teach our folks to do and it’s not just for Republicans, it’s for every voter.”
A few voters claimed that their voter registration was changed by the DMV without their knowledge or consent. Do mistakes like that happen sometimes?
“That’s unfair to the DMV. It’s a back-end process. It’s the responsibility of the voter to make sure they indicate that they want to change their party affiliation or register under a certain party or not. If they don’t, the registration still goes through, but they’re going to be listed as nonpartisan.
“We had a lot of this. During early voting, some people went all the way to the voting machine and said, ‘Hey, wait a minute.’ They didn’t pay attention when (the poll book said when they) sign in that they were nonpartisan. We sent them a sample ballot that said nonpartisan. We send a registration card at the beginning of the year that said nonpartisan.
“They went all the way to the voting booth and said, ‘I want to change my party,’ and they can do that. We have to back out and go to sign in, and then they have to show us a Nevada ID and they could change to Democrat or Republican and vote on that ballot.
“As long as they had a Nevada driver’s license or ID, they weren’t disenfranchised. They were still able to change that information when they came in.”
Others had concerns about the counting and verification process, especially about the access of observers in counting. How do you think the counting process went for observers in the county?
“As far as we’re concerned, and compared to what we’ve done in the past, this was the most transparent that it’s ever been as far as what observers can observe. These complaints really focused on issues that were already decided prior to the election. We were sued, and our DA and their lawyer went to mediation and came to an agreement on exactly what we’re going to provide for observation, and in all areas they were in complete agreement.
“However, unfortunately, most of the statements that they were making were based on observation that wasn’t approved in the court case. We stuck to what was agreed upon prior to the election and continued to do that so they would know exactly how many observers could be in certain areas. And simply, in certain areas we have limited space.
“Bottom line, they just wanted to be able to do things as an observer that isn’t covered by state law. You can’t peek over the shoulder of my worker and make your own determination as to whether a signature matches. They’ve been trained and they do it for several days in a row. They’re also educated to be conservative, where if they have any doubt they send it the curer.”
(“Curing” is the process of verifying a ballot that appears to have a mismatched signature was actually cast by the voter to whom it was sent. If a signature doesn’t match, the county reaches out to the voter to verify, or “cure,” a mismatched signature. Ballots that cannot be cured are not counted.)
A lot of people wanted an audit, but an audit is already in place for the election here. What does that audit consist of?
“In addition to an audit, or systems are certified on a federal, state and local level. Software is also certified at a federal level. They take the machines and heat them up to 180 degrees, then freeze them, and they still have to work. Testing like that.
“We have what we call the Accuracy Certification Board, which is statutorily required and we always select one Democrat and one Republican to participate in the board. There are three rounds of testing: before early voting, before Election Day and after Election Day where we get the board to go through a series of tests and verify that the tabulation system is accurately recording votes.
“Then we have the audits which are also statutorily required. We do a 2 percent sample of all the voting machines and all the paper rolls and we scan all the paper rolls and run a report of our tabulation system and match it against the results it has and it has to be 100 percent accurate, which it was for this election and always has been.
“And this isn’t statutorily required, but we also do a risk assessment audit where we again take a random sample of mail ballots and paper rolls and read those manually and compare them to tabulation reports. We’ve done that audit since the 2020 election and we’re preparing to do it again. This will probably be the last year that we will be doing that optionally because it will probably be required by law, but we’ll see about that.”
What are your takeaways from this primary process?
“I just want people to understand that we look into all credible concerns,” Gloria said. “There were many things brought up into that meeting that if they would give us the information we could have answers for them. But instead they want to hold this information and save it for a court case, which doesn’t make any sense.
“If there were credible reports, they would bring them straight to the source, either the secretary of state or even better the local election official because we can look it up and see exactly what happened as far as mail-in ballots and other measures in our county.
“And as our county matures, because we’re still new to mass mail-in ballots, these things will improve. The mailing list will become cleaner, something which is difficult in a county as transient as Clark County. The process will become cleaner, but it takes time to get to that level.”