Nevada approves hand-counting of ballots ahead of November’s election


Signs direct people to the entrance of a primary election ballot drop-off point and an in-person voting center amid the coronavirus pandemic on June 9, 2020 in North Las Vegas, Nevada.

(CNN)The Nevada Secretary of State’s office on Friday adopted temporary regulations for hand-counting ballots in the state ahead of November’s general election — as election denial and suspicion of vote-tallying machines grip parts of this western battleground state.

Mark Wlaschin, Nevada’s deputy secretary of state for elections, announced the adoption Friday morning after a 45-minute public hearing. He said the new rules would take effect October 1.

Nye County, Nevada, a sprawling rural community northwest of Las Vegas that’s at the forefront of the hand-counting movement, plans to test hand-counting its roughly 30,000 ballots in November.

    The county’s new clerk, Mark Kampf, who has falsely contended that Donald Trump won the 2020 election, has said he plans to proceed with a dual-track process: using vote-tabulating machines and hand-counting in November to test his contention that votes can be counted in a timely manner by hand.

      On Friday, Wlaschlin said jurisdictions — such as Nye — that will still use machines this fall do not have to follow the temporary regulations. The rules spell out in detail the procedures for counting ballots, including requirements for bipartisan counters and a ban on personal writing devices to prevent ballot-tampering.

        The hand-counting push in Nevada — led, in part, by Republican secretary of state nominee Jim Marchant — has sparked public outcry from voting-rights groups.

        Handing-counting “diminishes the accuracy, efficiency, and security of elections,” several voting rights groups said in a recent letter to Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske. They urged her to prohibit the practice, rather than try to regulate it.

          Cegavske, a Republican who has defended the accuracy of the 2020 election, is term-limited. President Joe Biden won Nevada by more than 33,000 votes in that election.

          Nevada law does not specifically outlaw hand-counting. And state officials say they moved forward because they want to establish uniform standards across the state if local jurisdictions opt to count ballots by hand.

          Marchant, a former state lawmarker who has said he would not have certified Biden’s victory in 2020, has urged counties to ditch voting machines. Nye County commissioners in March voted 5-0 to move to hand-counting at his behest.

          Other counties have weighed hand-counting.

            In tiny Esmeralda County, two commissioners hand-counted all 317 ballots cast in the June primary and certified the results, just hours before the deadline to do so.

            Former President Donald Trump and his allies have targeted Dominion Voting Systems with baseless claims that its machines used in 2020 were hacked and votes flipped. The company has filed multiple defamation lawsuits in response.