The closely contested race for Clark County Commission District C was thrust front and center this week into the deeply partisan attacks on election integrity.
When the all-Democratic county commission agreed Monday not to certify the results from the race, citing election discrepancies and setting the stage for a potential vote redo, President Donald Trump pounced on Twitter: “Clark County officials do not have confidence in their own election security. Major impact!”
County officials quickly rejected the president’s misleading assessment. But still, two losing state Republican candidates on Tuesday cited the discrepancies and tight commission contest in separate lawsuits seeking a revote in their races.
And the would-be Democratic victor in the commission race filed his own lawsuit Tuesday in an effort to force county lawmakers to certify his win and prevent a special election.
With several moving parts to this story, here is what you need to know:
Tell me about this county commission race.
Democratic former Secretary of State Ross Miller and Republican Las Vegas City Councilman Stavros Anthony battled it out to represent District C on the powerful county commission, a seven-member board that holds jurisdiction over the Las Vegas Strip.
Miller squeaked out a 10-vote victory, according to final unofficial election results, which have the two candidates split at 50 percent with over 153,000 total votes cast. The seat, occupied by term-limited Commissioner Larry Brown, generally covers the northwestern Las Vegas Valley.
What happened on Monday ?
A special meeting was called so that the countywide general election results could be certified by the commission. As is common practice, prior to certifying the results, county Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria read results from the canvass — a process performed by the county Elections Department to account for every ballot cast in the election.
“The canvass enables an election official to resolve discrepancies, correct errors, and take any remedial actions necessary to ensure completeness and accuracy before certifying the election,” according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
What did the canvass find?
Of all 974,185 ballots cast throughout the county, there were 936 discrepancies identified, meaning there was some error in less than 0.1 percent of the votes. Most issues (710) occurred in mail ballots, Gloria said.
And in the Commission District C race, there were 139 such discrepancies found in 153,162 total votes cast, or errors in also approximately less than 0.1 percent of all ballots.
In comparison, there were 322 ballot discrepancies out of 768,544 votes cast during the 2016 general election, according to information Gloria presented to commissioners at that time. There were also 110 clerical errors, he said.
How does this happen?
County legal counsel Mary-Anne Miller offered two succinct examples of a discrepancy in hypothetical situations where a voter is given a voting card and led to a machine.
If that voter failed to sign in but casts a ballot, then the precinct would report one more vote than it does voters on record. If someone checked into vote but for whatever reason did not cast a ballot, then there would be one less vote reported than voters on record.
A county spokesman suggested another example: If an issue requires a voter to redo part of the registration process at a voting machine, and it is processed incorrectly, it could record two check-ins but only one vote.
The spokesman confirmed that these discrepancies are either caused by technical issues or human error, be it from a voter or election staff member.
Gloria said that if the discrepancy is not explained in the staff paperwork, it cannot be reconciled. Officials understand the vote is off but cannot articulate why and voter privacy prevents election officials from identifying specific ballots.
“There’s no election that goes without discrepancies that are identified,” Gloria told commissioners.
So what did county lawmakers do?
The commission certified results in every race throughout the county except for the Commission District C contest because, in only that one race, there were more discrepancies identified (139) than the margin of victory (10).
“We have found discrepancies that we can’t explain that would cast a doubt on whether or not that margin of victory is solid and that I could certify it to say that it’s definitely accurate,” Gloria told commissioners.
Without a clear technical winner, according to the county, the commission directed Gloria to return to the board early next month with options for a special election in just the District C race.
Is this unusual?
Not quite. Take the 2018 Republican primary race for county administrator that was decided by just four votes.
Of 199,994 ballots cast, the county identified 43 instances of voters voting twice and could not identify who they were.
At the time, the county noted that the commission had made a similar decision in a close race in 1996, and that the courts had ordered redos on other occasions.
“We have for as long as I can remember, since I’ve been here, it has always been the practice to go through and identify what the discrepancies are and ensure that the margin of victory surpasses that so that you can certify,” Gloria said Monday.
What about concerns of fraud?
Richard Grenell, a former top intelligence official in the Trump administration, suggested on Twitter that county lawmakers “threw out” 153,000 ballots for the commission race because “of fear of fraud.”
In response to the tweet, county spokesman Erik Pappa said, “it’s not a question of fraud.”
But Pappa also wrote that the county had referred cases of potential fraud to the state and that “we take such matters seriously.”
Six voters were identified as voting twice in the county during the 2020 general election. Unsure whether it was done purposefully, Gloria said he would send evidence to the secretary of state’s office for investigation.
Two years ago, the county also requested the state investigate six county residents who voted twice during that year’s primary election. The secretary of state’s office could not provide an update Wednesday on what came of the probe.
How does the Anthony campaign view it?
It is worth noting that Anthony’s campaign manager, Lisa Mayo-DeRiso, who urged the commission to review potential “voting irregularities,” did not believe that discrepancies were an issue of fraud.
Instead Mayo-DeRiso said that a high volume of mail ballots, same-day registration and first-time voters created potential for human error.
“I don’t want to get in any tin-hat craziness because I don’t think that’s the case,” she said Wednesday.
Prior to the election, however, Anthony said he thought there was “a lot of potential for manipulation” with mail ballots.
But what about the 153,000 votes being thrown out?
Only the votes pertaining to the District C race between Miller and Anthony are planned to be redone in a potential special election. Votes cast in other races are not tossed aside.
On Tuesday, Miller sued the commission in county District Court for refusing to certify the results, alleging that the board acted “beyond its constitutional limitations.”
The suit requests the court certify the results of the contest and prevent county lawmakers from calling a special election.
“Ross won the election and his victory will stand,” Miller’s campaign manager Jim Ferrence said in a statement Wednesday. “We expected legal challenges attempting to undermine the integrity of the vote count, and we will vigorously defend the fair election that was administered by hard-working elections officials.”
In 2011, then-North Las Vegas Councilman Wade Wagner was victorious in a lawsuit against the city to block a planned special election after winning by a single vote. There had been questions in that contest about the eligibility of a voter.