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Nye County to use machines to tally votes, hand-count ballots later

Nye County Clerk Mark Kampf told the Nye County Commission Tuesday he expects to have preliminary election results around 10 p.m. on Election Day, with final, official results between Nov. 10 and Nov. 14.

Kampf plans to switch to using paper ballots only, hand counted by teams of election workers after a tabulation machine tallies initial results immediately after the election.

In March, the Nye County Commission voted 5-0 to request the clerk administer the election using only paper ballots and hand-counting the paper ballots, becoming one of the first jurisdictions nationwide to act on election conspiracies related to mistrust in voting machines.

Esmeralda County, which is Nevada’s least populous county, also moved toward hand-counting and paper ballots. During the June 2022 primary, it hand-counted ballots, spending more than seven hours to count 317 ballots.

Since the fall of 2021, seven of Nevada’s 17 counties have considered either switching away from the Dominion electronic voting machines, which have been a target of election deniers following the 2020 election, claiming that the machines malfunction or are easily hacked or inaccurate, or eliminating electronic voting systems completely.

Kampf — who the commission appointed in August and who is running for the job full-time in November — has repeated false claims that Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election.

Dominion tabulators will still be the primary method for determining the election results, Kampf told the commissioners Tuesday. That will be followed by a parallel hand count after the Dominion tallies the results.

Long count

In batches of 50 separated by precinct, the ballots will go to a tally team of three people who each take turns counting the batch as a reader reads aloud the results. Each talliers’ votes must match, and a verifier will also double-check each of the tallier’s vote counts. The votes will be put on a tally sheet and then there will be a precinct batch total.

With about 32,855 active voters in Nye County, Kampf estimated that if there are 26,000 votes at 80 percent voter turnout in November, there will be 520 batches at 50 ballots per batch. In a worst case scenario, a minimum of eight teams could count five batches per day, totaling 40 batches a day.

Kampf said he already has 57 volunteers to help with the hand-counting. Of those, Democrats make up 20 percent, which is the same representation of registered voters in the county, Kampf said. About 12 percent of the volunteers are nonpartisan, which represents about 35 percent of the voter registration in the county.

“We’re working to increase the number of participants that are not Republican. That is our largest group of individuals who have volunteered, but it really makes me feel great that we’ve had that many citizens step up and say, ‘we want to be part of the process and are willing to work,’” Kampf said.

Kampf has been reaching out to Democratic and independent groups encouraging their members to participate in the process.

The Nevada secretary of state’s office has been working with Kampf throughout the planning process.

In August, the office approved a temporary regulation on hand counting paper ballots; since then, the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN) filed a lawsuit challenging the guidance.

Changes in the future

While the voting machines will remain in use in 2022, Nye County is considering alternative solutions for future elections, in hopes that they can do away completely with the machines, said Commissioner Chair Frank Carbone during the meeting.

Besides changes to how the votes are counted, other aspects of the election process will be different. Mail-ballots will be the same as previous elections, and identical paper ballots will be completed by the voter at the polls, Kampf said. There will be touch screens for people with special needs to use.

Voters will sign a signature card as well as a signature screen so the clerk’s office can maintain more up-to-date signatures, Kampf said. If a signature verification fails, the staff will require identification. Also, staffers will ask voters to say their address, rather than repeating the address in county files and asking if a voter lives there.

There will be a video camera live-streaming the hand count to ensure transparency, which “will allow everyone to be a poll watcher,” Kampf said.

Contact Jessica Hill at jehill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jess_hillyeah on Twitter.

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