Photos by Eric Marks
Hundreds came today to the Washoe County administrative complex to weigh in on Washoe County Commissioner Jeanne Herman’s proposal to overhaul election protections and practices.
“This would limit access to voting and create chaos. I don’t see any evidence for this resolution,” said Commissioner Alexis Hill, who made the motion not to pass the resolution.
Commissioner Bob Lucey chastised Herman. He said he shares some of her concerns, but her proposal, and the way it was constructed, was inappropriate.
“You had an opportunity to work with … your other fellow commissioners, and the highly competent and effective professional staff at Washoe County … to [make] a resolution that was completely legal and fiscally sound,” he said. “As I look at this resolution, as drafted, it has many flaws and many challenges which we cannot take a position on at this time.”
Only Herman voted for the resolution. Herman, when offered time at the beginning of today’s board of county commissioners’ meeting, provided little explanation for why she put the agenda item back on the commission agenda.
Her proposal called for armed government agents at polls, ballot counting by hand and ballots sent by certified mail. State and county officials, who reviewed her proposal, said it would be expensive and many provisions are not under the county’s purview to change.
Herman said “the citizens” told her they wanted fair, honest elections.
“I have handed over documentation that showed discrepancies and fraudulous [sic] activity, but I never got any explanations for them,” she said. “Recently it’s become apparent that the citizens are not happy with the way the county is handling their elections.”
Most of the numerous citizens speaking today testified against her measure. There were 292 emails received by the county about the resolution. All but one was in opposition. Those in opposition said it would be illegal, impractical, expensive and would disenfranchise people of color and those with disabilities.
“I am appalled at the suggestion you would require mailed ballots to be certified. There are 307,000 active voters in Washoe County,” said Lindsey Harmon, speaking during public comment. “The idea that you would require USPS [to] handle that volume of certified mail is ridiculous.”
Nonpartisan poll workers testified that current structures in place at Washoe County polls are already safe and secure.
Marianne Denton, who said she is a nonpartisan poll worker and scientist, said Herman’s proposal is full of misinformation.
“This group took voting data provided by the county and manipulated it to suit their narrative,” she said.
Another poll worker said protections and cross-checking of names and identifications are already in place. Proof of county residency is required to vote, and those whose IDs can’t be verified are not allowed to vote. Ballots in dispute are reviewed by a bi-partisan group.
Attorney Alex Flangas testified he is familiar with county election procedures. He said, working with former U.S. Senator John Ensign, that he demanded a hand recount in the 1998 election because he knew a hand recount would produce more error.
“That was the chance John had to win. Well, John didn’t win. Harry [Reid] still won,” Flangas said. “Hand-counting of ballots every single time produces more errors than machines.”
Those speaking in favor of Herman’s proposal said those against it were bussed into the county chambers by Washoe County. Others regurgitated conspiracy theories advanced by former President Donald Trump.
Mary Lamb alleged commissioners were suppressing the issue because they moved Herman’s item to be first in the agenda.
“I’d like to ask … if all these paid-for oppositionists here insisting our votes are suppressed, why aren’t they appalled at the agenda that is conveniently out of order?” she said. “They’re not in order. Isn’t that suppression when you change the order at the last minute?”
Nevada’s open meeting law allows for meeting agendas to be changed at meetings.
County officials note this at the top of each agenda: “Items on the agenda may be taken out of order; combined with other items; removed from the agenda; moved to the agenda of another meeting; moved to or from the Consent section; or may be voted on in a block.”
Ingrid Lubbers, a local dentist, said the county’s voter rolls are in derelict condition.
“Inactive voters are not being purged,” she said.
That is false.
“Every night the voting rolls are uploaded to the Secretary of State’s Office to be cross-checked for duplications. It also checks to see if a person is dead,” Assistant Registrar Heather Carmen said. “That’s what we do on a daily basis.”
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.