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Nevada GOP announces another legal challenge to state election results

Updated November 17, 2020 - 6:37 pm

The Nevada Republican Party and campaign for Donald Trump filed another lawsuit challenging Nevada’s election results on Tuesday, this time asking for a judge to declare Trump the winner of the state’s six electoral college votes or annul the race entirely, despite former Vice President Joe Biden’s projected victory.

The lawsuit, filed in Carson City District Court, is the latest in a series of legal challenges brought by Republicans and conservative groups this week attempting to upend the election results in the state.

Republican candidates for Congress and state Senate who lost their races filed two lawsuits Monday that asked the courts to force Clark County to hold new elections. Another filed by a conservative group backed by former Republican senatorial candidate Sharron Angle asked a judge to block the state from certifying the election results and for the state to hold new elections.

Previous Republican legal challenges have yet to lead to any major successes, as both Clark County and the state of Nevada have parried them in court and pushed ahead with the counting of ballots and certification of the election, which is scheduled to be finalized on Nov. 24.

The latest challenge from the Trump campaign does not name state or Clark County election officials as defendants. Instead, it names the electors who are set to cast their Electoral College votes for Biden next month after the election gave the former vice president a 33,596 -vote victory in the state.

It is the most significant challenge leveled at the state’s election by Trump to date, as it seeks to invalidate tens of thousands of votes and alter a projected outcome at the top of the ballot after every county in Nevada has already certified their elections. It also makes many of the same claims already rejected by local courts in previous lawsuits, including improper use of a signature verification machine and unfair observation rules.

County rejects allegations

A Clark County spokesman dismissed the claims made by Republicans, noting that they made similar allegations in previous lawsuits that have been thrown out or dropped.

“They are repeating allegations the courts have already rejected, misstating and misrepresenting evidence provided in those proceedings, and parroting erroneous allegations made by partisans without first-hand knowledge of the facts,” the county said in a statement. “For example, they mentioned observation of the process, and the use of a machine to assist with signature verification, which they continue to inaccurately explain. On both of these issues, state and federal courts have already rejected their allegations.”

But attorneys and officials for the Trump campaign on Tuesday said they have evidence that more than 15,000 votes were cast in Nevada by people who also voted in another state, 1,000 from people who don’t meet Nevada’s residency requirements and 500 from people who were dead.

During a news conference in Las Vegas, Trump campaign attorney Jesse Binnall opened his comments by declaring Trump the victor in Nevada. Binnall was joined by former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt and American Conservative Union Chair Matt Schlapp, who have hosted a series of news conferences to outline the Republicans’ fraud claims.

Asked by the Review-Journal if the campaign intends to present the names, addresses and other specific information of the roughly 35,000 “improper” votes needed to overturn Biden’s margin, Binnall said he would provide “evidence of various forms” of irregularities and fraud that would be “enough to span the gulf.”

The complaint does not include detailed evidence to support those claims, saying repeatedly that “the evidence will show” in court that some “40,000 or more” votes were cast fraudulently. The campaign has also declined to name its “whistleblower” witnesses of alleged fraud in Clark County or provide the full names of voters it claims voted improperly.

Gabrielle d’Ayr, former chair of the Clark County Democratic Party and one of two statewide presidential electors selected by Democrats during convention elections earlier this year, is among the named defendants in the lawsuit. Reached Tuesday by phone, she was not aware of the lawsuit.

“I’m a homeless veteran, and the Trump campaign is suing me for doing my civic duty,” said d’Ayr, who added that she lost her job when the U.S. Census ended and she is currently living with a friend.

“My vote belongs to the people of Nevada, and I made a pledge to the people of Nevada,” she said. “Barbara Cegavske and Joe Gloria are people of great integrity, and if those results have been certified, then the will of the people has been made clear and I will cast my vote for Joe Biden.”

Cegavske is Nevada’s secretary of state while Gloria is Clark County registrar of voters.

Other lawsuits

On Monday, the Angle-backed Election Integrity Project of Nevada filed a motion asking a judge to block the state from certifying the election results and to force the state to hold new elections for every race.

The group’s lawsuit repeats similar claims about legislation passed during a special session this summer that allowed for mail-in voting amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with the group calling the law unconstitutional. Judges so far have rejected claims that the law, commonly referred to as Assembly Bill 4, violates the state constitution.

Two nearly identical lawsuits were also filed Monday by Republican Congressional candidate Jim Marchant and State Senate candidate April Becker, both of whom are represented by attorney Craig Mueller. The lawsuits claim that the use of an Agilis signature verification machine violated the state law, an argument that Republicans have tried and failed to make in other recent lawsuits.

The lawsuits also pointed to the Clark County Commission District C race where Democratic former Secretary of State Ross Miller defeated Republican Las Vegas City Councilman Stavros Anthony by just 10 votes. The county commission is considering a revote in that race because the razor-thin margin was smaller than the number of discrepancies identified by the county election department.

The lawsuits are asking judges to force the county commission to order a new election for all races in Clark County, or alternatively to order special elections specifically in the races that Marchant and Becker lost.

Marchant lost to incumbent Democratic Congressman Steven Horsford by more than 16,000 votes, or a margin of nearly five percentage points, in the race for Congressional District 4. Becker lost the race for state Senate District 6 to Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro by 631 votes, a margin of about 1 percentage point.

The 4th Congressional District contains Clark County Commission District C within its boundaries, and Senate District 6 similarly sits within the county commission district’s boundaries.

Gloria said Monday that his office identified 139 unexplainable discrepancies in the county commission race, things that he described as early voting and Election Day check-in errors and issues relating to tracking the process of mail-in ballots. Gloria said that because the discrepancy was larger than the margin of victory in that specific race, it calls into question the integrity of that race’s outcome.

But Gloria noted that the county commission race was the only one at issue.

“That’s the only race in the entire election where we have any concern related to the outcome, and it’s because of the close margin,” Gloria told commissioners.

It’s not uncommon for election officials to report discrepancies, but the numbers are usually relatively small compared to the number of votes cast. Of nearly 975,000 votes cast for all races in Clark County, there were 936 issues identified, according to Gloria, not enough to doubt the results of other contests. Clark County commissioners voted to certify all the results except for Commission District C.

Mueller, the attorney for Marchant and Becker, criticized the county’s election process during the same meeting.

“There were so many fundamental flaws here with this election that nobody could reasonably believe that these outcomes … reflect the will of the people,” Mueller said.

Nevada State Democratic Party Chair William McCurdy II condemned the recent legal challenges in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

“Attempts to challenge (Clark County) results based on voter fraud lack standing and should be regarded as attempts to discredit the electoral process,” McCurdy said. “As our Secretary of State and Attorney General have stated many times, there have been no instances of widespread voter fraud in this election.”

Republicans have filed several lawsuits challenging Clark County’s use of the Agilis signature verification machine in recent weeks claiming it violates the state’s law about how signatures must be reviewed.

Trump’s re-election campaign and the state Republican Party lost a challenge filed in Carson City district court challenging the use of the machine.

Carson City Judge James Wilson said in his decision that Republicans’ attorneys “failed to show any error or flaw in the Agilis results or any other reason for such a mandate.”

In an order denying an injunction in an appeal to the state Supreme Court in that case, the justices noted that there was nothing presented that showed that the use of the Agilis machine was illegal under state law.

And in a federal lawsuit that made similar claims, U.S. District Judge Andrew Gordon said that the procedures used by Clark were appropriate and there was “little to no evidence” that the signature checking machine was “not doing what it’s supposed to do.”

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter. Contact Rory Appleton at rappleton@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0276. Follow @RoryDoesPhonics on Twitter.

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