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The Nevada Independent

OPINION: In Nevada, election integrity really begins with acknowledging a simple truth

John L. Smith
John L. Smith

In the new year, most of us hope for a moment of clarity before life’s cacophony and chaos return. In the end, with goals unmet and resolutions dashed, we are lucky to receive a little peace and quiet.

That’s doubly true in an election year. With the presidential preference primary approximately a month away, early voting starts in two weeks, and the state Republican Party’s Trump caucus providing a sideshow certain to generate national news, Nevada will once again find itself in a glaring spotlight.

Nevada, of course, is home to six false GOP electors who now face criminal charges for their participation in what prosecutors from here to Washington, D.C., allege was the real fraud in the 2020 election — the one former President Donald Trump and his lackeys committed when they attempted to overthrow the American election.

Attorney General Aaron Ford and Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar rang in the 2024 political year in a time-honored way this past week, by holding a press conference. In it, they reminded Nevadans how clearly they see things as the election season unwinds.

Ford told reporters Wednesday, “Let me be clear: The 2024 elections will be free, fair and safe.”

Aguilar echoed the theme of the day. “I want to be clear: There is no evidence of widespread fraud in Nevada or anywhere else,” he said.

So, it looks like everyone’s clear. Democrats Ford and Aguilar would tell you they’re not just talking a good game, but are bringing a strategy into the struggle to protect and maintain fair elections. In their public appearance, they discussed the need for election security in a state targeted by false claims of ballot fraud. Their proof is found many places, including in a stack of specious, dismissed lawsuits, the endless propaganda spewed by the “stop the steal” cultists and the continued embrace of lying about our elections as a political plan of action by Trump Republicans.

They have the advantage of dealing with a structure built largely by ethical, even courageous, people who took the job of maintaining fair elections seriously.

Former Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske and retired Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria are probably the best-known election guardians. Former Washoe County Registrar of Voters Deanna Spikula and her successor, Jamie Rodriguez, carried out their duties despite experiencing venom and vitriol from those who were more interested in maligning their characters and manipulating the vote in the court of public perception than in proving their false claims of fraud.

Spikula resigned in July 2022 after receiving threats from angry people who believed the big lie about widespread election fraud in the 2020 presidential election in a state that saw Trump lose by more than 30,000 votes. Although Rodriguez told The Indy she loved elections, she recently announced her intention to resign her position.

In recent years, the state’s rural counties have been well represented by beleaguered employees whose duties have been maligned at every turn by know-nothings who managed to get the ear of county commission members. Some of those, too, have chosen to leave their positions.

At the press conference, Ford and Aguilar outlined the latest effort to ramp up and reinforce those essential offices that have been so slandered in recent years. From the look of things, the craven “stop the steal” theme will continue apace from Trumpian puppets running up and down the GOP ticket. Some, such as Congressional District 3 candidate Elizabeth Helgelien, are even touting endorsements from some of the worst of the worst election deniers and big lie promoters. When you’re posing for pictures with loony retired Gen. Michael Flynn and swooning over unrepentant Nixonian dirty-trickster Roger Stone, your grasp on reality is officially way, way out there.

To batten down the hatches against the threatening storm of misinformation and outright lies, more election workers are being hired to replace those who were fed up with the threats and noise. Training is being increased, lawyers are being recruited to monitor the polls, the state is increasing its ability to investigate complaints of fraud, and the communication between the secretary of state’s office and county election officials is a priority as Nevada prepares for another big year under the political microscope. Reminding the understandably confused public that the process will be secure, accessible and accurate can only help as the level of misinformation rises.

“This election season will draw some strong emotions, as people debate which candidate to support or disagreements on policy issues,” Aguilar said. “Some people may even want to argue about the best way to cast a ballot. But disagreements are no excuse to bring violence or harassment into the electoral process. That’s not how a democracy works.”

His words ring as sincere, but since clarity is the byword these days let’s keep with the theme: The best way to improve Nevada voters’ trust in the election system is for Trump’s minions to stop promoting the myth of widespread voter fraud and rigged voting machines. Stop pretending that paper ballots counted by partisans is more accurate than mechanical tabulation. In short, it’s long past time for them to stop lying.

I don’t think they’re capable of it.

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.


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