Trump campaign, GOP to appeal to Nevada Supreme Court to halt Vegas-area mail-in ballot count

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign and Nevada Republicans filed notice Monday that they’ll ask the state Supreme Court to stop the count of mail-in ballots in Clark County, the state’s most populous and Democratic-leaning county, including Las Vegas.

On the eve of the presidential election in a battleground state with six electoral votes at stake, the campaign and party notified a state judge that his refusal to halt Las Vegas-area ballot counting will get a fast-track appeal.

The Trump camp and state GOP also lost a bid in a separate public records lawsuit in Las Vegas to force the Clark County Registrar of Voters to turn over names of ballot workers handling the nearly 400,000 mail-in ballots received so far in Clark County.

Registrar Joe Gloria rejected that request Oct. 21 citing “security reasons.” He testified Monday he was concerned that the 300 temporary workers hired for the Nov. 3 election could face pressure or intimidation if their names were made public.

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Gloria also told the judge that on his request, law enforcers have been following trucks that transport ballots from place to place.

“Valid security concerns relate to information about employees (and) contractors,” Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez decided. She said officials can turn over lists of workers’ names after the election is complete and certified Nov. 16. She set a Nov. 20 compliance date.

County employees process mail-in ballots at a Clark County election department facility Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

County employees process mail-in ballots at a Clark County election department facility Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

The legal actions surrounding votes in Las Vegas come as the Trump campaign and state Republicans try to swing Nevada from the Democratic column, where it went in 2016 when state voters narrowly backed Hillary Clinton.

Arguments about access and oversight have emerged in several battleground states following calls from the president for his supporters to closely monitor ballot counts.

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In Nevada, Democrats accuse Republicans of trying to suppress voting in the state’s most diverse area. Clark County, including Las Vegas, is more than 31% Hispanic, 13% Black and about 10% Asian American, according to the U.S. Census.

“Trump and his allies are attacking our election processes because they do not want to hear from the hardworking people of our state,” a Democratic party statement said.

Democrats point also to an earlier GOP and Trump campaign lawsuit — dismissed by a federal judge in September — that sought to invalidate a state law that invoked the coronavirus pandemic and enabled universal mail-in voting statewide.

In the ballot-count ruling, Judge James Wilson Jr. in Carson City acknowledged the law enacted by the majority-Democratic Legislature last summer allows challenges of in-person votes, but not of mailed-in ballots.

But, he said: “Nothing the state or Clark County has done values one voter’s vote over another’s.”

Trump campaign and state Republican party attorney Jesse Binnall pleaded with Wilson last Wednesday for “transparency;” cited testimony from campaign count-watchers who said ballots were sometimes removed from their view; and asked to stop the count until officials allow “meaningful” oversight and ballot challenges.

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Binnall did not criticize ballot processing in Nevada’s other 16 counties, where Republicans outnumber Democrats in active voter rolls.

Wilson also rejected Binnall’s bids for a court order to stop use of an optical scanning machine to validate voter signatures, and to let the GOP install cameras to monitor counting.

Gloria testified that observers from both major parties and non-partisans are being accommodated in Las Vegas-area ballot-counting offices. Privacy requirements prevent over-the-shoulder monitoring of signature validation, he said.

Under pandemic rules, ballots were mailed to all active registered voters in Nevada. Clark County has almost 71% of all voters statewide, according to October tallies. Democrats make up almost 41% of registered active voters in the Las Vegas area, and Republicans account for 28.6%.

More than 1.27 million ballots went out in Clark County and more than 398,000 were received as of Monday, state election data said. More than 98% of those were accepted as valid.

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Statewide, 1.125 million votes have been cast, including 582,000 by mail and more than 543,000 during early voting, which ended Friday.

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