I-Team: A year and one guilty plea later, Republicans remain quiet on false allegations of voter fraud

I-Team

Despite internal audit, county reviews, statewide certification, court cases, some still believe voter fraud is major issue

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A year after supporters of former President Donald Trump told reporters to find evidence of the widespread irregularities in the 2020 election, a review at the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office found two dozen votes that are under review, one of which ended in a guilty plea.

In Nevada in 2020, 10 dead voters had ballots cast in their names and 10 people voted twice, the I-Team has learned from a secretary of state report, far below initial claims from state and national Republicans alleging nearly 4,000 individual cases of voter fraud.

Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske is a Republican. Her party censured her for defending the election, which she oversaw.

The Nevada Republican Party had delivered four boxes containing reports alleging fraud to Cegavske’s office in March. In several statements, party leaders said they had delivered more than 122,000 records supporting allegations of fraud.

An inventory in the office later identified 3,963 unique reports, office officials said last spring. A review of the reports found 10 possibly deceased voters had ballots cast in their names, the report said, citing data from the Office of Vital Statistics.

FILE – In this Nov. 5, 2020, file photo, a county election worker scans mail-in ballots at a tabulating area at the Clark County Election Department in Las Vegas. A state judge rejected a bid by the Donald Trump campaign to overturn the results of the Nevada election and stop the state’s six Democratic presidential electors from voting for Joe Biden. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

In one case, Donald “Kirk” Hartle, who told the I-Team last year that someone had stolen his deceased wife’s ballot and voted, in fact voted himself, officials said.

Rosemarie Hartle, of Las Vegas, died in 2017 at age 52 from breast cancer, Kirk Hartle, told the I-Team after the November election. A ballot for Rosemarie was issued in October 2020 and later received by the county, but Kirk said the ballot never came to his house. The I-Team found even though Rosemarie died in 2017, her name appeared on the active voter list.

The I-Team was first to report that prosecutors were charging Kirk Hartle in October 2021. In a plea agreement, Kirk Hartle pleaded guilty to one charge of voting more than once in the same election, which is a category D felony. Category D felonies carry a maximum prison sentence of four years.

As part of the plea deal, Hartle avoided prison time and was placed on probation. If he stays out of trouble for a year, he will be able to withdraw his plea and instead plead guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit voting more than once in the same election.

Rosemarie Hartle’s ballot was one of two cited by Nevada Republicans and national party leaders as evidence of voter fraud in Nevada.

“Dead people voted in Clark County,” Matt Schlapp, chair of the American Conservative Union, said in a news conference after the election last year. “We have two examples that we have talked about and want to talk about today. One is the death of Rosemarie Hartle in 2017.”

The other allegation Schlapp referenced appears to have not been intentional, the I-Team confirmed last year.

Neither the Nevada GOP nor Schlapp have responded to repeated requests for comment on the Hartle case.

In Nevada in 2020, 10 dead voters had ballots cast in their names and 10 people voted twice, the I-Team has learned from a secretary of state report, far below initial claims from state and national Republicans alleging nearly 4,000 individual cases of voter fraud. (KLAS)

“The damage is already done,” Dr. Rebecca Gill, an associate professor of political science at UNLV, said. “This story did serve the purpose of creating that level of doubt, which was useful at the time that this story came out.”

A spokesperson at the Secretary of State’s Office said staff worked a combined 240 hours on the Hartle case.

“There’s a lot of misinformation, disinformation that’s out there right now. What we do to ensure the security of our elections here in Nevada is to focus on the facts, focus on the data,” Deputy Secretary of State for Elections Mark Wlaschin said.

Wlaschin would not comment on the number of suspected dead or double votes, though they are mentioned in public documents, but he did say allegations of widespread fraud are false. The data proves it.

He pointed to one big fact: Nevada’s voting machines do not have a modem and print out a paper record.

Because the machines do not have a modem, they cannot connect to the internet.

“While there were indications that some individuals committed fraud or attempted to commit fraud, those individuals have been identified and are being pursued by the appropriate law enforcement,” he said.

Gill said she was not surprised state and national Republicans had not retracted their statements.

“The Nevada Republican Party has probably a lot more pressing issues to deal with right now,” she said.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate and former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt suggested widespread voter fraud during a post-election news conference, standing next to Schlapp when he named the Hartle case.

“This case proves the point that Nevada’s signature verification system — and our entire mail-in voting system — was deeply flawed,” campaign spokesman John Burke said. “Just weeks before the biggest election in our state’s history, legislative Democrats rammed through a total overhaul of our election system with zero support from across the aisle in a naked power grab. It should not be partisan to ensure every legal vote is counted and every illegal vote is thrown out. That is why we need to end mail-in voting and enact a robust voter ID law, which is supported by a bipartisan majority of Americans.”

Details about how investigators tracked Hartle were never released.

Former Attorney General Bill Barr, a Republican, said there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election. President Joe Biden won the election in Nevada by more than 33,000 votes statewide.

It can take years for voter fraud elections to end in charges. There are cases from the 2016 election that are still making their way through court.

Voter fraud is a felony and carries a fine and jail time.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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