By GABE STERN Associated Press/Report for America
RENO, Nev. (AP) — Officials in a rural Nevada county say they will not proceed with hand counting early mail-in votes before polls close on Election Day.
Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske ordered Nye County in late October to halt its hand-counting of ballots until after polls close on Nov. 8. Her order came after the Nevada Supreme Court issued an opinion siding with the American Civil Liberties Union’s objections to the reading of individual votes out loud.
Still, Nye County submitted a revised plan for a silent hand-count last week in hopes of remedying the court’s concerns and being able to continue the count. Cegavske said Friday that the plan needed more details for it to be approved and declined to lift the hand-count ban, leading to Nye County’s announcement on Sunday that it would wait until Election Day.
The county received 10,583 mail ballots as of Friday. For Election Day, which is Tuesday, polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m., though those in line at 7 p.m. will be able to cast their ballot.
Nye County is one of the first jurisdictions nationwide to act on election conspiracies related to mistrust in voting machines, though other counties across Nevada have considered using hand-counts in the future.
Nye County has just over 33,000 registered voters and planned on using a hand-count as the secondary tabulation method to Dominion tabulators. Nye County interim clerk Mark Kampf has floated the possibility of moving away from tabulators in the 2024 cycle for a sole hand-count.
There are 658 jurisdictions in the continental U.S. — mostly small townships across New England and rural Wisconsin — that rely exclusively on hand-counting, with the vast majority having fewer than 2,000 registered voters, according to data from Verified Voting, a group that tracks voting equipment across states.
Of Nye County’s 97 hand-count volunteers, 70 were registered Republicans, 16 were Democrats, 10 were nonpartisan or had no political party and one was from the Independent American Party, according to data the AP received through a public records request. The county later declined to give the party breakdown for each of the individual hand-count rooms, which had five people each: a reader, a verifier and three talliers.
The county also declined to provide the party breakdown for an updated number of volunteers, which was at 102 on the first day of hand-counting. Former President Donald Trump won about 69% of Nye County in the 2020 election, though he lost Nevada by about 2.4%.
The most populous county in the U.S. to use only hand-counting is Owyhee County, Idaho, which had 6,315 registered voters as of 2020.
Two hand-count groups that The AP observed on day one took about three hours each to count a batch of 50 ballots.
Ballots cast early — in-person or by mail — are typically counted by machine on Election Day, with results released after polls close. In most places, hand counts are used after an election on a limited basis to ensure machine tallies are accurate.
Stern is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Stern on Twitter: @gabestern326.
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