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Together with the Nevada GOP, Republican National Committee (RNC) chairwoman Ronna McDaniel on Wednesday demanded the state investigate what she called a “shady” and potentially illegal “backroom deal” by local politicians that would alter voting procedures ahead of the state’s all mail-in June 9 primary.
In a letter to Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, McDaniel and the state party charged that the Democratic-controlled Clark County Commission reached a secretive agreement with state Democrats that could have violated the state’s open public meeting law. The RNC is specifically concerned that “Democrat Party bosses are now forcing Nevada’s largest county to waste over $300,000 of taxpayer money to mail ballots to all inactive voters.”
That break in normal protocol, Republicans warn, would greatly enhance the risk of fraud. The money would also effectively finance some “ballot harvesters,” or operatives who can retrieve scores of ballots from individuals and turn them in. Some states, including Nevada, ordinarily prosecute ballot harvesters; others permit the practice to varying degrees.
The Clark County District Attorney’s Office, on behalf of the Clark County Registrar of Voters, has filed a joinder that states: “At the direction of local county officials, the Clark County Registrar of Voters is setting up two additional election day voting sites and will mail absent ballots to all registered voters, including inactive voters, at additional expense.”
The new rules came just 48 hours before a trial was set to begin in a lawsuit filed by state Democrats against the Nevada secretary of state, which the RNC was contesting as an intervening party. As part of the lawsuit, Democrats demanded the suspension of provisions of Nevada law that enhance ballot verification.
Marc Elias, an ex-Hillary Clinton lawyer representing Nevada Democrats, specifically called for Nevada to stop throwing out ballots when signatures on voters’ ballots appear different from those on voters’ registrations, saying “lay election officials have never had the necessary expertise” to make an accurate determination.
Elias also demanded that Nevada “require mail-in ballots be sent to all registered voters in Nevada, not just those in an active status.” Elias said that state election law doesn’t distinguish between the two categories of voters. Further, Elias pushed for the state to suspend prosecutions for ballot harvesting, ostensibly for safety reasons during the pandemic.
Using some detective work, the RNC assessed that Nevada Democrats have already implemented some of those measures without disclosing them to the public.
Voters masked against coronavirus line up at Riverside High School for Wisconsin’s primary election Tuesday April 7, 2020, in Milwaukee. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
“Some unspecified Clark County officials voluntarily decided after the suit was filed on April 16—but before the joinder was filed on May 4—to yield to part of the plaintiffs’ demands,” the RNC wrote to Ford. “Yet between those two dates, the only advertised County Commission meeting where commissioners could have discussed those decisions occurred on Tuesday, April 21, 2020. And the agenda for that meeting provides no evidence that the commissioners addressed issues of additional in-person voting places or mail-in ballots during it.”
“We respectfully ask you to investigate under NRS 241.039 whether the Clark County Commissioners violated Nevada’s open public meeting law when they decided, behind closed doors, to capitulate to the plaintiffs’ demands,” the RNC added. “The Clark County Commission took costly, substantial action regarding the June primary without notifying, broadcasting, or allowing citizens to provide their input. To be complete, your investigation should examine not only which unidentified county officials made the decision referred to in Clark County’s joinder, but also when they made that decision, and whether they consulted with outside groups before doing so.”
The RNC continued:” No doubt the governmental defendants in that case—including your office—exchanged emails throughout the weekend before Clark County filed its May 4 joinder. Some of those emails very likely disclose at least in part how Clark County’s decision unfolded. But whether focused on those emails or not, time is of the essence; actions taken in violation of the public meeting law are void, NRS 241.036, yet the primary is scheduled for June 9.”
The furtive move to mail out more ballots was particularly troubling, the RNC said, citing a Fox News report that thousands of ballots have been sent out by the Clark County Election Department to inactive voters – those who have not voted in recent elections, a roster that can include people who either have moved or are deceased – and the envelopes are piling up in post office trays, outside apartment complexes and on community bulletin boards in and around Las Vegas.
The excess ballots have drawn complaints from local residents who worry that anyone could pick up a ballot off the street and cast a fraudulent vote, as well as from Republican Party officials in the state who see a nefarious motive behind the vote-by-mail system being employed by the Democrat-dominated Clark County Commission.
“What’s going to happen with these things, they’re not secured at all and there are thousands of them just sitting here,” Jenny Trobiani, a postal worker in Clark County, told Fox News that she has seen hundreds of ballots being mailed to inactive voters. “This just seems fraudulent to me, something stinks here.”
Republicans have argued that many states fail to adequately clean up their voter rolls. Last year, California was forced to remove 1.5 million ineligible voters after a court settlement last year when California’s rolls showed a registration of 112 percent.
“The Clark County commissioners’ decision to capitulate behind closed doors is bad enough, but that harm is compounded by the significant monetary costs of these secret changes,” the RNC argued. “Ms. Lorena Portillo, Assistant Registrar of Voters of Clark County, affirmed in an affidavit that the cost for additional printers to be delivered and programed will be $138,997.50; the cost for mailing the additional ballots will be $184,738.01; and that ‘[b]ased on past experience, at least 90% of those’ additional ballots ‘will come back as undeliverable.’ In other words, the additional costs Clark County taxpayers will incur based on the direction that Mr. Gloria received from unnamed county officials exceeds $300,000, with more than $166,000 to be spent on mailings that even county officials expect will not reach their intended recipient.”
The RNC has taken aggressive steps to combat what it sees as an increasing risk of election fraud. Earlier this month, the RNC launched ProtecttheVote.com, a digital platform that the GOP says is part of its all-hands-on-deck effort to “protect against the Democrats’ assault on our elections” as progressives push for sweeping changes, including vote-by-mail and more ballot harvesting, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The launch comes after the RNC and Trump campaign doubled their legal budget to $20 million after an initial commitment of $10 million in February, saying they wanted to “fight frivolous Democrat lawsuits and uphold the integrity of the elections process.”
“In battleground states across the country, Democrats are using the coronavirus as an excuse to push through their long-sought partisan agenda, but we are fighting back to protect the vote,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement to Fox News. “The RNC will stop at nothing to ensure the integrity of our elections is upheld in the face of Democrats’ brazen assaults. Americans deserve to have confidence in their elections, and we will not stand idly by while Democrats try to sue their way to victory in November.”
That was a message echoed by President Trump in a tweet last month: “GET RID OF BALLOT HARVESTING, IT IS RAMPANT WITH FRAUD. THE USA MUST HAVE VOTER I.D., THE ONLY WAY TO GET AN HONEST COUNT!”