Updated December 1, 2020 - 3:04 pm
Democrat Ross Miller was certified Tuesday as the winner in a tightly contested Clark County Commission race after county lawmakers reversed course on potentially holding a special election to address doubt over the results.
The County Commission’s unanimous decision to certify the results of the contest effectively ended the prospect of an election redo, leaving Republican Las Vegas Councilman Stavros Anthony with two options: Demand a recount or contest the results in court.
Miller, a former secretary of state, officially defeated Anthony by only 10 votes in a race where election officials identified 139 voting discrepancies, framing the crux of the issue that for more than two weeks has delayed declaring a victor.
On Tuesday, both candidates shared a differing view of the commission’s decision. Miller was “thankful” that lawmakers had ensured that more than 153,000 total votes cast in the race would count. Anthony was “very disappointed” there would be no resolution to address the flip side.
“To say that 139 votes that cannot be counted don’t matter is an affront to the integrity of the election process,” Anthony said in a statement. “(Registrar of Voters) Joe Gloria restated today that he cannot tell us who those 139 people voted for; what if they were all for Stavros Anthony?”
To be clear, Gloria has defined discrepancies as when the number of voters do not match the number of ballots cast — either more or less — and a county spokesman confirmed they can be caused by human or technical error. The majority of discrepancies in county races occurred in mail ballots, according to Gloria.
Judge rules against Anthony
While such errors are common in elections, and were found in fewer than 0.1 percent of ballots cast in District C, the discrepancies raised doubt about the accuracy of the outcome only because they exceeded the razor-thin margin of victory.
The uncertainty had prompted the all-Democrat commission on Nov. 16 to not certify the results of the race and to direct Gloria to return this month with options for a special election.
But District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez on Monday disagreed with the premise argued by Anthony’s lawyers to show the councilman was entitled to a revote. The discrepancies had not “prevented” the election, the judge said, which is a standard required by state statute to launch a new election.
It is an argument that has also been pushed by lawyers for other Republican candidates seeking to force new elections in the county. Democrats have been successful thus far in beating it back, arguing that it applies only in extreme cases such as a natural disaster on Election Day.
Gonzalez ultimately denied Anthony’s efforts to prevent the commission from reconsidering whether to certify the results of the race. And county lawmakers on Tuesday deferred to the courts in their decision.
“If we don’t meet that statutory requirement as far as ordering a new election, then our only option is going to be to certify and to let the courts handle any kind of contested election if any,” Commissioner Larry Brown said.
While Anthony could request a recount, Gloria has previously said it would not resolve any discrepancies. By contesting the results in court, it is possible Anthony could be appointed to the seat if it is determined he “received the greatest number of legal votes,” according to state statute. A court could also declare a seat vacant if it does not determine anyone was elected.
Miller to drop lawsuit
Jim Ferrence, Miller’s campaign manager, said that Miller would be dropping a lawsuit filed against the commission seeking to compel the board to certify the results.
“Ross Miller served as Nevada’s chief elections officer for eight years and nobody has more respect for the hard-working officials and volunteers who administered a fair election in District C,” Ferrence said in a statement. “Over 153,000 voters cast legal ballots in the race and Ross is thankful to the County Commission for making sure those votes count and for certifying Ross as the winner.”
It appears a court hearing in the Miller lawsuit scheduled for Dec. 14, when Anthony’s campaign seemed intent on continuing to make its case, will no longer occur.
“As you might expect we are very disappointed in the decision by the County Commission today to not take a stand for the voters in District C,” Anthony said in a statement, adding that “we will continue to make every effort to get a fair, transparent and accurate election.”