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Judge rebuffs Nevada GOP lawsuit to stop vote count

James DeHaven
Reno Gazette Journal

A federal judge has rebuffed Nevada Republicans’ latest effort to slow the vote count in the state’s largest county, denying the day-old request after a two-hour Friday hearing in Las Vegas.

Attorneys representing a pair of GOP congressional candidates and two Clark County voters argued observers should be allowed within six feet of election workers in order to properly “see and hear” the ongoing vote count.

They later claimed Clark County was “improperly” using its signature verification machines to check votes and that all mail ballots ought to be hand-checked before verification.

Judge Andrew Gordon sounded unconvinced, and very wary of wading into similar election law questions already pending before the Nevada Supreme Court.

More:Biden widens lead on Friday. Here's why it's unclear when Nevada will be called.

Judge: Legislature writes state election laws

He said there was little or no evidence to suggest the county’s signature-matching machines were faulty, and perhaps even less evidence to suggest a human could do the job better.

A county election worker moves boxes of counted ballots at a tabulating area at the Clark County Election Department, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Las Vegas.

Gordon later concluded it simply was not his place to weigh in on the case, especially given a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that appeared to discourage meddling in state-run elections.

“It’s for the state Legislature to write state election laws,” he added in a ruling from the bench. “I should not usurp that proper role of state legislatures.”

Lawsuit could have slowed Nevada vote count

The lawsuit could have dramatically slowed the ongoing ballot count in a state that could decide the presidency. Democrat Joe Biden maintains a slim 22,000-vote lead over President Donald Trump for the state's six electoral votes, and is one of a handful of undecided states in the close contest.

The suit was filed on behalf of Las Vegas voter Jill Stokke, Chris Prudhome— a “credentialed member of the media"— and the campaigns of Republican politicians Jim Marchant and Daniel Rodimer.

It alleges Prudhome— who describes himself on Twitter as a “Republican Strategist” and “Fox News Guest Commentator”— tried to observe ballot counting at the Clark County Election Center on Wednesday and that officials there tried to deny him access.

Real-time update:Get the latest Washoe County election results here

Stokke— identified as being 79 and blind— believes her ballot was stolen. She claims when she went to vote, she was told she already voted and that her ballot had been sent by mail.

"Irregularities have plagued the election in Clark County, including lax procedures for authenticating mail ballots and over 3,000 instances of ineligible individuals casting ballots," lawyers said in Stokke’s court filing. "Ballots have even been cast on behalf of deceased voters."

Election officials say claims are 'absurd'

The lawyers have provided no evidence to back up their claims of improper ballots being counted.

Nevada’s top elections on Friday submitted a scathing response that called those claims “absurd.”

“The Secretary of State’s Office independently investigated Ms. Stokke’s complaint,” Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford wrote in the court filing. “Rather than affirm that she had not submitted the mail ballot in writing (effectively challenging the prior vote) to receive a provisional ballot, Ms. Stokke refused because she did not feel she could implicate someone else for a crime.

“Instead of addressing this allegation on one ballot, Ms. Stokke seeks to stop all continued use of the (signature-matching) machine on an emergency basis for Clark County in its entirety. This is absurd and must be rejected by this court.”

Attorneys for the state went on to argue that verifying votes by hand would add “days and days” to the state’s already protracted, closely watched vote count.

More:Here's how an election recount would work in Nevada

Another Trump lawsuit hangs in balance 

Team Trump gained no quick decision Tuesday in a separate, Nevada Supreme Court appeal aimed at stopping the count of mail-in ballots in deep-blue Southern Nevada.

Justices did not stop Election Night counting, calling instead for written filings to be completed next Monday on an issue that could affect vote reporting in Clark County and Nevada.

The Trump campaign and Nevada Republicans on Thursday agreed to settle still another legal action questioning Clark County’s vote-counting process.

Team Trump dropped the week-old case after reaching an agreement that allowed additional observers to keep an eye on proceedings at the county election center.

State and federal judges have wasted little time discarding a slew of suits filed by Trump’s campaign in Nevada and other key swing states, repeatedly reinforcing the judiciary’s willingness to keep the vote count going.