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SOS: Most election fraud reports in Nevada don’t warrant criminal prosecution

Out of hundreds of reports, the secretary of state’s office has referred just 14 cases of potential election fraud for criminal prosecution since 2020.
Eric Neugeboren
Eric Neugeboren
ElectionsState Government

The Nevada Secretary of State’s Office has referred 14 cases of potential election fraud for criminal prosecution since 2020 out of hundreds of reports received and more than 2.4 million votes cast, reinforcing that voter fraud is not widespread in the Silver State, according to a report the office released this week.

In recent years, the office has received a rising number of reports of potential violations of election law, ranging from allegations of people voting twice to voter history discrepancies. These complaints represent a minuscule proportion of total votes cast in the state over that time, and many of them were found to not violate state law, with nine prosecution referrals made from 2020 and five from 2022.

The release of the report, the first of its kind in Nevada, comes seven months before the November general election and years after false allegations of widespread voting fraud spread across Nevada and the rest of the country, fueling the false narrative that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election. Such claims were key talking points for some Republicans running for statewide positions in 2022.

After the 2022 general election, the office received 146 reports (out of 1 million total votes cast) of people voting twice or attempting to vote twice, which is against Nevada law. Of those complaints, half have been closed without prosecution, while 70 remain under investigation and just three have been referred to the attorney general’s office for prosecution, according to the report.

As of last week, the secretary of state’s office has received another 100 reports of election integrity violations in 2023 and 2024 related to issues ranging from receiving mail ballots to voter registration. Thirty-three of those complaints remain open, while the rest resulted in no violation found. These did not include the more than 100 complaints the office received following a glitch in the state’s voter registration system that displayed voter history incorrectly but did not affect vote tallies in the February presidential primary election.

Six reports were also related to the February primary, with two still under investigation and four closed without a violation found.

The report comes three months after the secretary of state’s office fully staffed its new election integrity investigation division after the Legislature approved nearly half a million in dollars in new funding for those positions in the 2023 legislative session.

The unit has two civil investigators and one criminal investigator whose sole jobs are to investigate election integrity violations, a departure from the past where other employees in the office’s election division and securities team — which investigates potential violations of the state's securities and investment fraud laws — vetted complaints on top of their existing job responsibilities, leading to a backlog of complaints.

Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar and Mark Wlaschin, the deputy secretary of state for elections, said in a Tuesday interview that the staffing has allowed the office to resolve investigations quicker, but the office did not have much data available yet on the team’s productivity because it only became fully staffed in January.

Aguilar also said he is unsure if he will ask the Legislature to fund more investigators in next year’s legislative session.

“Going through this next presidential election, we will have a better idea of what we need in the office,” he said.

The investigation process

Those who believe there has been a violation of state election law can fill out a form and submit it to the secretary of state’s office.

Once the office receives a complaint, the election integrity team’s civil investigators review the complaint and speak with anyone who may have information, including county election officials, poll workers and members of the public. 

After that, the office may decide to send a “civil notice” to the voter, informing them that they are aware of the allegations but will not be pursuing any further action. The office sent 15 of these notices related to allegations of “double votes” in 2022, according to the report.

For example, if a father and son with the same name are voting in an election, and the son votes in person while the father erroneously fills out his son’s mail ballot, the office may send a “civil notice” to the father about the investigation that warns him voting twice is illegal.

If the civil investigators determine that a criminal investigation may be warranted — meaning that the complaint may have identified a violation of Nevada law — the office holds a meeting to determine whether to move forward with a criminal investigation.

If a complaint leads to a criminal investigation, the team’s criminal investigator looks more closely into the allegations and determines whether to refer the case for criminal prosecution, while also relying on members of the office’s securities team if more support is needed. If the office determines prosecution is necessary, it creates a report of its findings and submits it to the attorney general’s office, which can then prosecute the case on behalf of the office.

Sometimes, the criminal investigation can find no evidence of intentional wrongdoing in a case of double voting, such as if someone voted in person after their mail ballot had not been processed because of a recommendation from a poll worker.

“That is a criminal offense, but the situation as identified by the poll worker and verified by the voter again, leave it to not essentially warrant criminal prosecution,” Wlaschin said.

In addition, the state’s Department of Public Safety serves as a backstop for criminal investigations if the office needs more assistance to respond to complaints quickly (there is no state law on how quickly investigations must be wrapped up). The department is investigating 44 complaints related to “double voting” in the 2022 general election.

“We need to ensure that we're addressing these in a timely manner because that's going to be the most critical piece of this … so that we are addressing it in a time when this evidence exists, but also to make sure we are responsive to the Nevada public,” Aguilar said.

Aguilar said the increased staffing has helped decrease the backlog of cases that arose before the election integrity team was created.

“I just kept hearing across the state, people would say ‘I filed this report, but I never heard anything,’” Aguilar said. “We're going to continue to learn the process, we're going to be more efficient.”


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