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Hand-counting ballots may cost counties

Updated August 31, 2022 - 10:28 am

RENO — An interim legislative committee voted Monday to request a bill draft that, if passed in the next legislative session, would require any county not using voting machines purchased with state funds to pay back the money used to buy them.

The request, which was recommended to the Joint Interim Standing Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections, was brought by Assemblywomen Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas and Brittney Miller, D-Las Vegas, the committee’s chair.

“We would have never thought that a county that came to us and asked for dollars to purchase something would just put them in a closet and not want to use them,” said Carlton. “It’s very sad to think that state dollars, taxpayer dollars were given to a county and they bought machines and they’re just gathering dust.”

The proposal follows a successful push by election deniers in Nye County to eliminate the use of electronic voting machines in favor of paper ballots and hand counting the results, a move which saw the county’s long serving clerk, Sam Merlino, resign.

She was replaced earlier this month by Mark Kampf, a former executive who has falsely claimed that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election. Kampf has said that Nye County will both hand count ballots as well as use machines to ensure an accurate tally.

Esmeralda, the state’s least populous county, hand counted ballots cast during the June primary election, taking election officials seven hours to count 317 ballots. Seven of Nevada’s 15 counties have considered switching from the use of electronic voting machines, a reaction to unsupported claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

Clerks across the state have spoken out against the switch; many of them have said hand-counting would leave room for human error.

Carlton said the bill would not be retroactive, meaning counties that have already opted to cease using voting machines wouldn’t be affected. The provision was a sticking point for some Republicans on the committee.

“If it’s not clarified that this is not retroactive then I could not support it, and I didn’t see that anywhere in here. So I hope it’s written that way,” Assemblywoman Jill Dickman, R-Sparks, warned.

Lawmakers voted unanimously to request the drafting of the bill, which could undergo a number of changes after it is written and amended in next year’s legislative session.

Carlton won’t be there for that process, however: She’s term-limited and cannot seek re-election this year.

Contact Taylor R. Avery at TAvery@reviewjournal.com. Follow @travery98 on Twitter.

A previous version of this story misidentified the chair of the Joint Interim Standing Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections. Assemblywoman Brittney Miller is chair.

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