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Clark County Election Department personnel process mail in ballots on Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

It’s just a rumor that Nevada, so slow to count the ballots in the 2020 presidential race, is changing its official state animal from desert bighorn to the desert tortoise.

But people wouldn’t be blamed for believing it after hearing some of the criticism Clark County Registrar of Voters Joseph Gloria and Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske received this past week for taking a measured and methodical – not to mention legal – approach to tallying the Silver State’s share of the world’s most important vote. Whether anxious to end their agony, itching to pop that chilled champagne bottle, or determined to find fraud where none exists, the painfully slow rollout of the official results were hard for some to stand.

Most of the criticism was playful, and plenty of it came from a crowd of ever-impatient reporters. Frankly, I didn’t mind the wait.

After enduring all the acrimony, deception and outright dissembling from the Trump campaign in its “vote-by-mail fraud” narrative, an accurate ballot count was the ultimate disinfectant. With lies and lawsuits flying, it was a time to double and triple-check your totals. As far as I’m concerned the belt-and-suspenders approach looked downright stylish on the county registrar and secretary of state.

Setting aside the obvious, you know, that the future of the world is at stake, there’s the painfully self-evident fact that President Trump continues to be willing to do just about anything to derail the democracy. He proved it every day by stoking fears of fraud and continues to fan his smoldering horse manure pile with a flurry of lawsuits bent on disqualifying votes, maligning the process, questioning transparency, and cowing election officials. His minions continued to raise the issue of voter fraud and questioning the accuracy of the Agilis ballot sorting machine.

In a press announcement outside the Clark County Election Department Thursday, a Trump campaign group led by former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt raised the specter of ballot chicanery. Laxalt said, “We firmly believe that there are many voters in this group of mail-in voters that are not proper voters.”

He backed up the claim by declining to answer questions.

State Attorney General Aaron Ford didn’t mind answering them as he continued to stiff-arm the attempts to tackle the democratic process, calling the latest lawsuit a “Hail Mary attempt at undermining the vote.”

Ford kept the voter fraud deception in perspective in a national interview with “CBS This Morning.” It’s just not there, the Democrat said.

“We have not (seen it), nor has our Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske,” Ford said. “Nor have our 17 county registrars. And, in fact, this latest complaint that they filed late last night is in a word, garbage.”

Although Trump has threatened more litigation, none of the legal legerdemain has worked in Nevada. But the litigation, in combination with the campaign’s efforts to assemble protests at election departments in states where the counts have continued, attracted the press and fuel conspiracy theories outside mainstream media that something devious is taking place.

It’s just the opposite. But doing it safely and accurately takes time.

“It’s going slowly because this is a new endeavor for us, to be sure,” he said, sharing a laugh about the pace of the tally. “Our Legislature, in its infinite wisdom, decided to have all active voters receive mail-in ballots this year so that they could exercise their constitutional franchise to vote free from COVID, and most folks took advantage of that. So it’s taken time to receive and process these mail-in ballots, which have built-in redundancy to prevent fraud.”

For me, a defining moment in the post-election scrum came Wednesday outside the election department when Gloria, addressing a gaggle of reporters, was interrupted by a frothing fellow spewing a conspiracy theory and shouting about his freedom.

“The Biden crime family is stealing the election!” he bellowed. “The media is covering up! The Biden crime family is stealing this election! The media is covering it up!”

Gloria paused, waited. After the unhinged man had finished and wandered off, the unflappable county registrar of voters continued to calmly explain the process to the press. He wisely increased security at the election office.

But the counting continued.

By Saturday, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris were declared the winners. Belt-and-suspenders Nevada called the state for Biden-Harris, too.

And Trump? He played to type and continued to question votes from Pennsylvania to the Silver State. 

The final vote totals in Nevada came too slowly for those who just wanted an accurate result, and way too quickly for those who feared one.

John L. Smith is an author and longtime columnist. He was born in Henderson and his family’s Nevada roots go back to 1881. His stories have appeared in Time, Readers Digest, The Daily Beast, Reuters, Ruralite and Desert Companion, among others. He also offers weekly commentary on Nevada Public Radio station KNPR. His newest book—a biography of iconic Nevada civil rights and political leader, Joe Neal— “Westside Slugger: Joe Neal’s Lifelong Fight for Social Justice” is published by University of Nevada Press and is available at Contact him at [email protected] On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith

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