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‘Big Lie’ continues during public comment at Washoe County Commission

By Kristen Hackbarth

Public commenters spent more time today at the Washoe County Commission chambers at pushing false and unsupported allegations of election fraud.

They also demanded resignations of county staff and elected officials during Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioners’s meeting. 

Over the course of four hours, commissioners – excluding Commissioner Jeanne Herman – were called cowards and bullies, treasonous and corrupt. 

Several commenters accused the media, including This Is Reno, of spreading false information in recent coverage of an “election integrity” petition and a resolution that had been placed on the Feb. 22 meeting agenda by Herman. 

A number of people in the audience also heckled those who gave public comment in opposition to the election changes proposed in Herman’s now-pulled agenda item. 

Some people called for Registrar of Voters Deanna Spikula to be fired. 

Nevada gubernatorial candidate and Jan. 6 insurrection attendee Joey Gilbert accused commissioners Kitty Jung and Alexis Hill, as well as County Manager Eric Brown, of being illegally elected. 

Brown was hired into his position, not elected.

Voter counts questioned

Commenters tossed out numbers and accusations often without providing evidence to support their claims. 

Robert Beadles, who on Feb. 8 presented commissioners with a petition for election reforms, threw out a slew of numbers from voter data secured from the Washoe County Registrar of Voters on Feb. 14. 

Beadles alleged that 40,000 more people voted in the 2020 general election than were registered to vote, saying that at the time of the election only about 212,000 people were registered to vote in Washoe County. 

According to the final election summary from the registrar’s office for the 2020 general election, 252,563 votes were cast, with a voter turnout of 83.02%. At the time of the election, 304,224 people were registered to vote in Washoe County. 

This Is Reno contacted the Registrar’s office to find out why the numbers were different. 

Heather Carmen, the assistant registrar of voters, said regular maintenance of the voter database – something those pushing for so-called “election integrity” demanded occur on a regular basis, despite it already happening – was the source of the different numbers. 

“Since the voting rolls are being updated daily – individuals move from the county, pass away, request to be removed from the rolls, etc. – the voter list he received does not reflect voters that have been removed from the voting rolls and that may have voting history,” Carmen said. “His list does not include ‘inactive’ or ‘canceled’ voters which could have voted in the last election.”

Basically, of the more than 252,000 voters who turned in a ballot during the 2020 general election, about 40,000 of them are no longer registered or eligible to vote in Washoe County and have been removed from the database. Their votes in the election, however, still count toward the total votes cast. 

Carmen said it’s normal to see that much change in registered voters within the database. 

“With voter list maintenance programs we conducted throughout the year and automatic voter registration, our voting rolls do go up and down with the total number of voters,” she said.

County manager apologizes

Washoe County Manager Eric Brown

Washoe County Manager Eric Brown, following public comment, apologized to the community and to Commissioner Herman for what he said was a clerical error in his office that resulted in Herman’s election resolution being pulled from the agenda. 

Brown said his staff had to retype the resolution from a hard copy document provided by Herman. When the document was converted to a PDF for the agenda a paragraph was omitted, he said, resulting in the agenda item description not matching the resolution. 

“This, in part, is a lesson in terms of what happens when we rush to post something that hasn’t gone through our normal process,” Brown said. “This did not go through our normal process. We were trying to accommodate the commissioner’s wish to get this on the agenda for today. So as such, I want the public to know that the buck stops here.” 

Brown said neither the District Attorney’s office nor the other commissioners had seen the document before it was released, as is part of the normal review process. 

“We circumvented that process so that we could get it posted by the deadline Wednesday morning,” Brown said. “I will make sure that we take the proper steps so this doesn’t occur again.”

Registrar of Voters provides election updates

Washoe County Registrar of Voters Deanna Spikula provided an overview of elections, including the levels of government election oversight, current federal, state and local laws and regulations related to voting and elections, and recent election changes passed during the 2021 Nevada legislative session.

She also provided a timeline and a list of offices up for election this year. Candidates who wish to run for county office can file with the Registrar of Voters’ office between March 7 – 18. Early voting for the primary election begins May 28. The primary election is scheduled for June 14 and the general election is Nov. 8.

Washoe County Registrar of Voters Deanna Spikula presents information about elections during a Washoe County Board of County Commissioners meeting Feb. 22, 2022.
Washoe County Registrar of Voters Deanna Spikula presents information about elections during a Washoe County Board of County Commissioners meeting Feb. 22, 2022.

Following the presentation, commissioners asked Spikula a number of questions related to items included on Herman’s election resolution and other concerns expressed by community members.

Commissioner Herman asked why it seemed that out of state people were serving as either poll workers or observers.

“I think it’s terminology,” Spikula said. “Our poll workers are required to be Nevada registered voters.”

She said non-residents are allowed to be observers or to circulate petitions near polls, but they are not paid poll workers with the county and not officially involved with the election. 

“How much money has the registrar’s office requested from Mark Zuckerberg?” Herman asked, meaning the Center for Tech and Civic Life. Zuckerberg was a major donor to the nonprofit in 2020 to support changes needed to conduct elections during the pandemic. 

Spikula said her office had received a grant from the organization which was used to hire extra poll workers during the 2020 election to sanitize and clean polling places during the pandemic.

She also provided details on how her office confirms addresses for voters, how concerns about improper activities at the polls can be reported, how electronic voting machines are tested and audited, and how the voter database is maintained.

Other Commission Business

Provided by Washoe County and edited by This Is Reno.

Board approves contract for temporary services at Cares Campus

Commissioners approved a $475,000 contract with Quick Space to provide Washoe County temporary services at the Nevada Cares Campus, including temporary fencing, portable restrooms, portable hand washing stations, portable office buildings, portable storage containers and other items as needed. 

County staff said the items were needed to enhance the long-term facilities to accommodate the health and safety needs of participants and staff. 

Last week a portion of the ceiling in the men’s showers collapsed, causing the area to be closed. Our Town Reno posted social media images showing a mold infestation in the showers. Men and women will rotate use of the women’s shower area until repairs can be made. 

The Quick Space contract has an initial 16-month term with the option to renew for three one-year periods for up to $400,000 per year.

Spanish Springs JROTC given $5,000 donation

The Board approved a $5,000 allocation from Chair Vaughn Hartung’s District Special Fund to support the Spanish Springs High School JROTC Cougars Battalion. 

The Spanish Springs High School Army JROTC completes an annual service project to support underprivileged families during the Christmas holiday, and will travel to Anaheim, California, for a Drill Team cadet competition in the spring of 2022.

In 2021, members of the battalion earned national recognition at the U.S. Army JROTC Raider Nationals competition in Molena, Georgia.

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