NATIONAL NEWS

Nevada county votes against certifying recount results, a move that raises longer-term questions

Jul 9, 2024, 6:30 PM

FILE - County employees open ballots in the ballot opening area of the mail ballot processing room ...

FILE - County employees open ballots in the ballot opening area of the mail ballot processing room at the Washoe County Registrar of Voters office in Reno, Nev. on Monday June 3, 2024 .Commissioners in Nevada’s second most populous county, Tuesday, July 9, 2024, refused to certify the results of two local recounts from last month’s primary, a rare move that has potential implications for the presidential race in one of the nation’s most important swing states. (AP Photo/Andy Barron, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Andy Barron, File)

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Commissioners in Nevada’s second most populous county on Tuesday refused to certify the results of two local recounts from last month’s primary, a rare move that has potential implications for the presidential race in one of the nation’s most important swing states.

The three Republican members on the five-member Washoe County Board of Commissioners voted to reject the results of recounts in one race for a commission seat and another for a local school board seat. What happens next is unclear.

The county elections department and district attorney’s office declined to comment, and requests for comment from the secretary of state and state attorney general were not immediately returned.

The rejection of the recounts and questions over how to handle it raised concerns about what could happen in November if a local commission refused to certify the presidential election results.

Once seen as a mundane and ministerial task, election certification has become a pressure point since the 2020 election. During the midterms two years later, a scenario similar to what is unfolding in Washoe County played out in New Mexico after that state’s primary, when a rural county delayed certification of the results and relented only after the secretary of state appealed to the state’s supreme court.

The vote was first reported by KRNV-TV.

The certification standoff is the latest election controversy to roil Washoe County, which includes Reno and its suburbs and has narrowly voted for the Democrat in the last two presidential contests. Conspiracy theories about voting machines and distrust of election administrators have led to harassment and high turnover in the local election office the past four years. They also were on display Tuesday during the commission meeting in downtown Reno.

The public comments were filled by residents who alleged irregularities in the election, demanded a hand-count of ballots and sometimes spouted false claims of stolen elections and a “cabal” within the county.

Against that backdrop, and rapid election staff turnover, the county elections department has also made certain administrative mistakes, like sending mail ballots to voters who had opted out of receiving them and misprinting certain local sample ballots, though none that affect tabulation.

Two of the Republican commissioners, Jeanne Herman and Mike Clark, have consistently voted against certifying results and are supported by the wider movement within the county that promotes election conspiracy theories. Republican Clara Andriola, who that movement has targeted in the primaries, joined them in voting against certification of the recounts, one of which involved the primary race she won.

“There’s a lot of information that has been shared that in my opinion warrants further investigation,” said Andriola, who had not previously voted against certifying results. She referenced several “hiccups” by the elections department and referenced public commenters who raised concerns.

She said she was appreciative of the county elections department but wanted to take the certification results to other governing or judicial bodies. She acknowledged that it is not immediately clear what particular entity that will be.

The commission’s two Democratic members voted against rejecting the recount results, which changed just one vote in each of the two races. The board had previously voted to certify the other races from last month’s primary 3-2, with Andriola voting in favor.

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