Today, the ACLU of Nevada filed suit again to halt Mark Kampf, the county clerk in Nye County, Nevada, from conducting a hand count of ballots received in the 2022 midterm elections. The ACLU of Nevada — which is represented by itself and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law — argues that Kampf does not have the legal authority to move forward with the hand-count, and that doing so violates state law and the state constitution, which guarantees Nevada voters‘ right to have “election contests resolved fairly, accurately and efficiently.”
“The Nye County Clerk’s insistence on doing a hand-count of all ballots that have already been counted by machine tabulators defies best practices in the election security field,” said Sadmira Ramic, ACLU of Nevada Voting Rights Attorney. “It’s a haphazard and disorganized approach to one of the greatest responsibilities of election administration, counting every eligible vote. We’ve heard from concerned Nye County voters throughout the voting period, many of whom were worried their ballots would not be counted under the county’s experiments. We’re going to keep fighting to safeguard our elections and to keep them safe, secure, and accessible.”
Nevada law requires that at least 90 days before an election, counties submit to the Secretary of State’s office – and receive approval for – any election administration procedures related to ballot security and voting accuracy. The petition argues that because neither of the county clerk’s previous proposals to start hand counting ballots before Election Day were approved by the Secretary of State’s office, following them or new ones now would violate that law, regardless of whether the process takes place parallel to a machine count.
The plaintiff also argues in the petition that the county clerk’s proposals, if followed, do not include basic security measures to ensure that ballots are not altered during the counting process. Hand counting procedures deployed before Election Day – before the count was stopped by the Nevada Supreme Court in response to a previous lawsuit by the ACLU of Nevada – did not appear to have sufficient processes in place to keep volunteers from having access to the individuals counting and reading the ballots, or to ensure ballot preservation.
After being served the petition on Thursday night, the defendants indicated to the press that they were adding some protections to their ballot handling process. It is still unclear, though, whether adequate procedures are in place for screening, training, and oversight of volunteers, and how blue and black pens are kept out of the hands of observers and supervisors present in the rooms where ballots are being handled.
“While these latest measures to preserve ballots are welcome they do not change the high probability of human error in hand counting a large number of ballots,” said Gowri Ramachandran, senior counsel in the Brennan Center’s Elections & Government Program. “Without pre-written, comprehensive procedures, this method produces many more mistakes than machine counting. Nye County voters don’t deserve to have their votes put through a process known for error.”
The petition is available here, along with more background on ACLU of Nevada v. The County of Nye and Mark Kampf.
The ACLU of Nevada was formed in 1966 and works to defend and advance the civil liberties and civil rights of all Nevadans through community engagement, public education, policy advocacy, and strategic litigation.
The Brennan Center for Justice is an independent, nonpartisan law and policy organization that works to reform, revitalize, and when necessary, defend our country’s systems of democracy and justice.