LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Nevada judge on Thursday rejected a Republican National Committee claim that election officials in Las Vegas — the area with most of the state’s Democratic voters — “stacked” the makeup of a mail ballot signature verification panel against the GOP.
Judge Timothy Williams said in a brief written decision posted in the court record that the party affiliations of temporary workers hired to help the Clark County registrar of voters process ballots isn’t relevant.
“The county hires these workers from a temporary employment agency,” the judge wrote, and they “simply perform ministerial functions” such as comparing voter signatures on mailed ballots with those on file with the state Department of Motor Vehicles.
Williams dismissed as “a big stretch” arguments by the RNC that the workers are assigned to a special election board with a membership that, according to state law, “must represent all political parties as equally as possible.”
The “nominal exercise of discretion in performing a job-related task does not rise to the level of decision-making typically expected from a board,” he said.
Representatives of county elections chief Joe Gloria and attorneys for the RNC and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Williams’ decision can be appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court, but justices usually take months to reach decisions. Counting ballots cast in advance has already begun, early voting in Nevada ends Friday and Election Day is Tuesday.
Williams, in Las Vegas, heard arguments Wednesday, including attorney Jordan Smith saying on behalf of the RNC that party parity in vote processing offered “a check and a balance.”
“If all political parties have an equal seat at the table, it’s less likely for somebody to cry foul afterwards,” Smith told the judge. “There’s less likely to be a controversy.”
Smith said there were two months of open-records discussions with the county before Williams signed off Oct. 5 on a pact that had the county provide to the RNC a roster showing job titles and political party affiliations of vote processing workers. The RNC dropped a demand to obtain workers’ names.
The attorney for Republicans complained that the partisan makeup of the signature verification panel changed between Oct. 18 — when the county reported to the RNC that it had 23 Democrats, 33 nonpartisans and eight Republicans — and Monday, with 10 Democrats, 18 nonpartisans and 12 Republicans.
A county spokesman, Dan Kulin, did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for a current breakout of signature verification workers’ party affiliations.
Lisa Logsdon, the Clark County counsel representing Gloria, argued that thousands of temporary workers hired for ballot processing aren’t picked by political party, and that comparing signatures on mailed ballots with those on file with the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles is not a partisan job.
Logsdon said the registrar’s office year-round staff of about 40 adds about 2,000 temporary hires to staff what she termed “our signature verification room.” Hiring is a process left to the registrar’s discretion, she said.
Clark County, including Las Vegas, is the most populous of Nevada’s 17 counties, with more than 71% of the state’s 1.8 million active registered voters. The county has almost 468,000 registered Democrats, compared with more than 341,000 registered Republicans. Almost 510,000 active voters claim other or no party affiliation.
More than 143,500 people have voted in Clark County in advance of Election Day, Nov. 8, according to the county elections website.
Republicans have not filed similar challenges related to vote processing in other Nevada counties.
However, a fight about hand-counting ballots in neighboring Nye County has pitted the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada against Nye County — a predominately Republican jurisdiction where residents have expressed mistrust about the results of the 2020 presidential election.
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