by Jeniffer Solis, Nevada Current
The race for Nevada secretary of state heated up this week after Nye County Commissioners appointed a new interim county clerk who is expected to pave the way for hand-counting paper ballots in the 2022 general election.
On Tuesday, the Nye County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 to appoint Mark Kampf, an election denier who falsely stated former President Donald Trump won the election, to the interim position to replace previous Clerk Sam Merlino.
Republican secretary of state candidate Jim Marchant, a supporter of Kampf and also an election denier, helped convince Nye commissioners to make the switch to hand-counting paper ballots, even as Merlino criticized hand-counting as prone to error.
During a panel on voting rights hosted by Nevada Democratic Victory Tuesday, Democratic candidate for secretary of state Cisco Aguilar heavily admonished Marchant for his role in Nye County’s decision to switch to hand-counting paper ballots.
“What Jim Marchant is doing in Nye County is irresponsible and dangerous,” Cisco said. “He’s not a serious leader, but the threat he represents is very serious.”
Marchant, along with conservative businessman Russell Ramsland who has also pushed false claims the 2020 election was stolen, insisted Nye County Commissioners switch hand-counting paper ballots.
Merlino, who had held that office for more than 20 years, told commissioners hand-counting leads to “a lot of error.”
Earlier this year, she announced she would be retiring early ahead of the 2022 general election and submitted her resignation on June 6.
Kampf has called for hand-counting paper ballots, contending the switch was needed to “restore confidence and transparency in our elections.”
Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, reviewed of election fraud and irregularity allegations lodged by Nevada Republicans and found no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.
Aguilar called Marchant an “extremist who has declared loudly and often that he believes our president wasn’t duly elected.”
Marchant didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Marchant has garnered national attention for his full-throated commitment to Trump and spreading conspiracies about alleged election fraud. Marchant falsely claimed he was the victim of election fraud after losing to Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford in the 2020 election.
Marchant, who won an election for a Nevada Assembly seat in 2016, has said that elections have been corrupt in Nevada since 2008.
Marchant also frequently claims that there is a nefarious “cabal” rigging elections by manipulating voting machines in Nevada, the nation, and around the world.
Marchant also stood next to Nevada’s fake electors in December 2000 when they signed the phony electoral college certificates that were sent to Congress, an action that would later be revealed as part of the plan hatched by Trump’s legal advisors to stop Joe Biden’s certification as president on January 6, 2021.
Asked by the Guardian in January of this year if, as secretary of state, Marchant would be willing to send alternative electors to Congress other than those selected by Nevada voters in 2024, Marchant answered, “That is very possible, yes.”
In Nevada the secretary of state is the top elections official and is responsible for overseeing elections and certifying their results.
“He’s working to ensure struggling Nevadans can’t access the ballot box. He wants to go back to the day when access wasn’t granted to everyone,” Aguilar, Marchant’s opponent, said at the Nevada Democratic Victory event this week.
Jeff Smith, a voter rights attorney closely aligned with Democrats, said while voter suppression has been a national issue for decades it has become “more nuanced and insidious.”
“We need to be aware that not only are they going to make it harder for people to vote…but they’re also going to try and get those votes from being counted,” said Smith during the Tuesday panel.
Smith said he feared Nye County would fail to certify the vote in time, preventing certification of election results statewide.
“In Nevada the laws are great, but it’s still up to the counties to follow those laws,” Smith said. “I’m not worried about Clark County. Clark County is going to follow the law… but I don’t know if Nye county is going to count all the votes like they’re supposed to. ”
Hand-counting paper ballots would be time consuming in Nye County, where there are about 31,500 eligible voters. Nevada law gives counties a strict time frame to tabulate votes and report the results to the state for certification. The process could also be riddled with errors and miscounts, say critics.
“There are still actors who don’t care what the law says. They are more concentrated in counties other than Clark County and Washoe County. We have to stay vigilant,” Smith said.
North Las Vegas Democratic state Sen. Dina Neal emphasized worries the Democratic Party has about the future of voting rights in the state during the panel.
“It’s more accessible here than it may be in other places but it is threatened,” Neal said. “There’s an active strategy to take over the secretary of state because when they challenged the vote (in 2020) it’s the secretary of state, in each state, who was able to shut it down.”
She called on Nevada voters to get involved in the race for secretary of state and other down-ballot races.
“We’re always out there sleeping as Democrats because we’re always waiting for the next crisis rather than watching the actual snake that’s slithering around on the ground getting ready to take our races,” Neal said.
Nevada Current reporter Michael Lyle contributed to this report.
Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: [email protected]. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.
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