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Ralston Reports

The attempts to cast doubt on Nevada's elections

Official absent voter ballot for Washoe County. (Joey Lovato/The Nevada Independent)

Note: This blog will track efforts to use rhetoric and the court system to try to cause voters to lose faith in Nevada's elections. Nothing in politics is more insidious.

June 2

1 PM

The latest effort is a lawsuit filed by national and local Republicans seeking the release of emails that may or may not exist to expose a “shady backroom deal” at Clark County that may or may not exist. In filing this lawsuit, the Republicans have once again exposed just how nakedly political their efforts are — i.e. it has nothing to do with the law.

At issue is Registrar Joe Gloria’s decision to mail ballots to inactive voters — voters still on the rolls but who have not responded to correspondence from election officials and presumably have not voted in some time.

The lawsuit contains pure innuendo -- couched as “Upon information and belief” -- alleging that the Clark County Commission violated the Open Meeting Law by privately coercing Gloria to mail ballots to inactive voters, and the Republicans are seeking putative public records to prove a case for which they have no evidence.

Anyone who knows anything about legal documents realizes a lawyer can say almost anything he or she wants after the phrase “Upon information and belief.” It is a license to make stuff up, even libel people. 

Let's assume the worst: On a board with all Democrats, one or more commissioners sent emails or texts to Gloria telling him to do what the Democratic Party wanted done, which was to mail to inactive voters, too. That would be dumb of a commissioner, but it’s possible.

However, two points come to mind:

  1. So what? Gloria has the authority to mail to inactives on his own; he did not need approval. (Gloria and other election officials did not want to mail to 200,000 or so inactives -- and 190,000-plus have already been returned as undeliverable -- but not because of the possibility for fraud. He and others thought it was a waste of money, and it probably was.)
  2. It is not illegal to mail to inactive voters. Quite the contrary. And take it to its logical conclusion: The Republicans are upset that ballots were mailed to people actually registered to vote. Think about that. Why would they be, unless they believe those could be the kinds of voters -- transients, poor people -- who are...Democrats.

The bottom line: What was done was legal, and the Republicans are on a fishing expedition that even if they were to land the big one (a smoking gun email, perhaps) would not affect anything, except perhaps cause a commissioner or two to be red-faced. 

It’s almost as if they just don’t care about the damage they may be doing to faith in Nevada elections.

May 29

2 PM

More news on the attempts, from 1600 Pennsylvania to NV MAGA, to destabilize the November election and cast doubt on the legitimacy of balloting:

First, I’d guess because of the false statements made by Trump campaign Chair Adam Laxalt and others, including straight from The White House, Deputy Secretary of State for Elections Wayne Thorley put out a statement today explaining what “inactive voters” are.

Here’s our story and the money quote:

“Claims that inactive registered voters are not eligible voters are false,” he said in the press release. “Likewise, claims that mail ballots for the 2020 primary election were sent to individuals who are not on the voter rolls are also false.”

I also believe Thorley directed part of his release at lil ole me for my Twitter shorthand on inactive voters: “It is inaccurate to claim that inactive voters are voters who have simply not voted recently because it misrepresents how the voter inactivation process works in Nevada. No registered voter in Nevada is ever changed from active status to inactive status solely on the basis of not voting in recent elections. As previously described, in order for a registered voter to be designated as inactive, a piece of election mail sent to the voter must have been returned as undeliverable and the voter must have failed to respond to a mailer asking the voter to confirm their voter registration information.”

He’s right, of course. While it’s true that most inactive voters have not voted in awhile, there is an actual process. Mea culpa!

There is another lingering issue on all of these scary attempts to cast doubt on November that I must address, too:

Besides inaccurately characterizing inactive voters and raising the prospect of “massive fraud,” as Laxalt put it, the Republicans keep saying the Democrats simply want to erase any signature-matching requirements for mail ballots. This is, of course, ridiculous. But let me show you how the Trump campaign and its enablers has been able to perpetrate this big lie, even getting Adelson’s lead columnist to parrot it.

The folks trying to undermine faith in Nevada elections are making a bad faith argument by taking language used in a preliminary injunction and a complaint filed by Democratic groups to suggest the party does not want any requirement. That, of course, is nuts.

Here’s what the Democratic Party’s Molly Forgey said after these claims began to trickle out: “We have never taken the position that the state shouldn’t require a signature, only that the signature review process have a uniform standard several layers of review before a voter’s ballot is rejected and an opportunity for voters to cure their rejected ballots. We will continue to seek these safeguards for the general election.”

If you don’t want to take Forgey’s word for it, let me take you through it and show you what Trump & Co. are doing.

The Dems sued because they know, as Laxalt acknowledged this week, that this is all about the general. Neither party cares much about the primary. So in case the general is mostly mail, too, the Dems want ballots sent to as many people as possible (hence, the inactive voter piece) and the Republicans want to restrict it. They are also worried that Dems dominate Clark County in voters and membership on the commission and even went so far, through Laxalt, to call Registrar Joe Gloria “the Democrat registrar,” as if he is part of the putative conspiracy to commit fraud. (He’s a nonpartisan.)

They have also alleged a “backroom deal” to get Gloria to loosen restrictions — without any evidence, of course — and you will see in a bit that is not so, either.

So when they sued to get as wide a latitude as they could to reach voters who might not so easily be reached — minorities and the poor — the Dems asked to be able to ballot harvest (have others return ballots) and to change the signature-matching requirements. From the court doc:

There are three principal problems with Nevada’s Ballot Rejection Rules that are highly likely to lead to disenfranchisement of lawful registered voters: (1) the statute’s use of an ambiguous and overly inclusive standard for signature matching, (2) the lack of adequate safeguards to ensure that ballots cast and signed by qualified voters are not discarded, and (3) the lack of an adequate opportunity for voters to cure problems with their signatures. Each of these problems independently undermines the Ballot Rejection Rules and is a basis for striking them down; together, they compel the result.

Aha, screams Lord Farquaad of Virginia! We got you.

But this is bad faith or bad understanding — hard to tell which, or both.

The Democrats want the practice ended as it is done, not the matching statute erased. (I wonder if this could be done in a special session…)

More from the court docs:

By failing to prescribe sufficient standards for signature matching, the statute invites different counties, and different personnel within those counties, to apply their own standards. And because the statute and implementing regulations allow untrained laypersons to conduct signature matching—without screening, without proper equipment or time, and without adequate reference signatures with which to conduct the matching—some voters will have their ballots properly counted, while others will have their ballots thrown out.

And:

The statutory standards for signature matching, or lack thereof, only exacerbate this problem. The statute sets too low a bar for a properly cast ballot to be rejected, and offers only a vague standard, inviting unequal and arbitrary application. In the first signature match review, two county officials must only agree that there is merely a “reasonable question of fact.” Id. § 293.325(1)(b). For the second signature match review, no standard at all is articulated for when a ballot will be rejected. See id. § 293.330(1)(b)–(c).

If that does not persuade you, I return you to Clark County and the supposed “backroom deal” that does not exist. Look at what the signature-matching agreement is in Clark:

Mail ballots initially will be reviewed by a signature verification machine.  If the signature does not appear to match or is of poor resolution quality, it will be flagged for personal review.  The Registrar currently requires that each signature be reviewed by at least two reviewers of different parties (at least one major party, and one could possibly be non-partisan or another minor party), and that if one of those two employees questions whether the signature on the ballot envelope matches the signature of the voter, the signature is reviewed by  the supervisor of elections, and, if necessary, by the Registrar of Voters. The Registrar further agrees to instruct employees reviewing signatures that a signature raises a reasonable question of fact as to whether it matches the signature on file if it differs in multiple, significant and obvious respects from the signature on file, and that slight dissimilarities should be resolved in favor of the voter whenever possible.The Registrar also agrees to reach out via mail, and phone number or email (if the voter has provided that information), within 24 hours of receipt of a ballot or as soon thereafter as possible, if the voter is required to cure a signature issue.

Does that seem an invitation to fraud to you? I thought not. QED.

If you have not yet read GOP attorney Daniel Stewart’s devastating takedown of the attempts to cast doubt on the election, I highly recommend it.

May 28

1 PM

Many Republicans, from the president to his press secretary to his Nevada team, have been trying to raise the specter of voter fraud here. They have especially been talking about — and exaggerating — the putative problem with mailing to inactive voters. (And they never talk about all the safeguards that are in place that would prevent a stolen ballot from counting.)

Here are some facts:

–Inactive voters are not “purged” from the rolls, as Trump Nevada Campaign Chair Adam Laxalt said Wednesday evening with Tucker Carlson on FOX. They are on the rolls, just have not voted in awhile.

–Despite claims by Laxalt and others — and White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany did it today as did a MAGA Nevada guy — that “thousands” of ballots are piling up all over Clark County, this is not happening. Yes, there are some places where ballots have been thrown away or are in mailrooms of apartment complexes. But this is the stat to remember: There are about 200,000 inactive voters in Clark County, and the Clark County Election Department has received almost that many ballots back as undeliverable. Want to guess who those probably are?

–Another canard advanced by Team Trump and the state GOP — and Laxalt last night — is that somehow Registrar Joe Gloria was coerced into mailing to inactives by the Demcratic Clark County Commission. Not quite. The implication is that he was afraid about voter fraud; he wasn’t. He just thought it was a waste of money — and those thousands (yes, thousands) of undeliverable returned ballots indicate he was correct.

–By the way, last night on FOX — and here is my blow-by-blow — Laxalt also referred to Gloria as the “Democrat registrar” to help his case about a Democratic conspiracy to create the potential for “massive voter fraud.” Gloria is a registered nonpartisan; you can look it up, Adam.

It is truly something when the only person standing up for the Republican secretary of state is the Democratic attorney general.

Editor's note: Some of these posts have been transferred from the early voting blog, which will be reserved for voting numbers updates and analysis.

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