GOP SOS hopeful imports election fraud theorists to promote Nye County measure

GOP SOS hopeful imports election fraud theorists to promote Nye County measure
An election sign outside the Fallon Convention Center on Nov. 3, 2020. Image: Ty O'Neil / This Is Reno

by Michael Lyle, Nevada Current

PAHRUMP — Nevada secretary of state candidate Jim Marchant, accompanied by Republican figures from across the country who have previously promoted election fraud conspiracy theories, made a push Tuesday for Nye County to switch to hand-counting paper ballots.

A Colorado official, Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, recently indicted on charges of election tampering, was also invited by Marchant to present to Nye officials.

“She was detained last week for doing her job,” Marchant told commissioners. “I like to ask you the forces that detained her, what are they trying to hide? Why wouldn’t they let her come address you today?”

According to Colorado Newsline, Peters was indicted on “10 counts related to an investigation into election equipment tampering that led to a system security breach last summer,” released on bond March 11, and isn’t allowed to leave the state. 

Marchant is one of several ardent advocates of the Big Lie that the 2020 election was fraudulent who are now running for offices which administer elections. Marchant falsely claimed he was the victim of election fraud after losing to Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford in the 2020 election.

Although the indicted Colorado official could not attend, Nye commissioners did receive a presentation from Russell Ramsfeld, a Texas businessman who has sought funding from Republican donors and made multiple false election claims, including the bogus assertion that election software used in the United States originated in Venezuela and could easily be manipulated.

Marchant, during his presentation to Nye officials Tuesday, offered to fund the county transition to paper ballots, saying there was a possibility he could help out financially. 

“I can’t say definitively, but I think we could probably work toward that,” he said. “A lot of people are saying what are the costs of this? What are the costs of us losing our Second Amendment rights? What is the cost of us losing our First Amendment rights? That’s where we are headed if we don’t do this.”

County Commissioners voted unanimously to formally request Nye County Clerk Sandra Merlino to administer the primary and general elections using paper ballots only and hand-counting the results. It’s her decision to implement the change. 

“I’m not saying no I will not,” Merlino told commissioners prior to their vote. “I just think I need to get past the primary because we are so far in.”

After doing a review of alleged election integrity issues, Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, announced in April she found no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Despite Cegavske’s report, Nye County Commissioner Debra Strickland said she wanted to bring the measure forward after “hearing from the Tea Party and their voting integrity presentation.” 

“The people are concerned about whether or not their votes are being processed,” she said. 

Merlino painted a logistical nightmare that would accompany switching systems ahead of the June primary, but didn’t rule out further consideration ahead of the general. 

“I can’t even consider this for the primary,” Merlino told commissioners prior to their vote. “It’s just physically impossible for me to do it at this time.”

In a presentation prior to the agenda item explaining the election process and security measures the county takes, she said hand counting ballots comes with human error. 

When discussing the measure, she recommended analyzing the possibility of implementing paper ballots after the primary to look at potential costs to Nye County and gather recommendations from other places across the country. 

“If we do have an issue with the hand count and we’re off and have to hand count again, and again, you have to think about the cost of doing a hand count more than once and also the impact it has on the voters of Nye County,” she said. “Not everyone agrees with this. Some do and some don’t. The delay in results also impacts Nye County voters as well as voters in the state because we do run federal and state elections.”  

She also worried how the switch would affect their county’s ability to remain compliant with the American with Disabilities Act. 

In addition to offering unspecified financial assistance, Marchant said “we can bring in people to help through the process of whatever she needs.” 

“We have access to those groups that can do that,” he said. 

Kerry Durmick, the Nevada State Director for All Voting is Local, criticized the measure not only for being a “push from election conspiracy theorists, one who is currently a Republican candidate for Secretary of State,” but also for negatively affecting voters. 

“The Nye county clerk expressed a move to this system would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and would cause a tremendous financial constraint on Nye County,” Durmick said. “The transition to an all-paper ballot election would suppress voters of color and voters with disabilities and will likely create longer wait times at polling places across the county. There’s no reason why we should be creating barriers to the ballot through resolutions such as these.” 

Tuesday’s proposal wasn’t the first attempt by counties to make changes to elections based on concerns of “election integrity”  – unsubstantiated claims of issues surrounding the 2020 election. 

A recent proposal in Washoe County, which was proposed out of baseless claims that widespread voter fraud occurred during the 2020 presidential election, sought to post the National Guard at polling sites and also asked for votes to be hand counted. 

The measure was removed from the Washoe commission’s consideration, but an amended version is expected to be discussed later this month. 

In an interview Tuesday, Lyon County Manager Jeff Page said at least one county commissioner, Ken Gray, was interested in putting an election proposal on the agenda, but had pulled the item multiple times. 

He believed it was similar to what was discussed at Nye County. 

One Nye county commissioner also suggested Tuesday having a ballot question to gauge voter’s interest during the general election. 

“So it’s not thrown back at us later on to say, ‘yeah, you guys didn’t do it right.’ ”

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