A conspiracy-driven push to count ballots by hand is gaining momentum
Nye County, a rural Nevada enclave, has positioned itself as the epicenter of a Donald Trump-fueled conspiracy over the security of electronic voting registers.
The Nye County Commission voted in March to make the county one of the first Act on the false narratives that machines that count votes are rigged. County Clerk Mark Kampf, who has falsely claimed Trump won the 2020 election, has said volunteer voters there will be hand-counting the roughly 30,000 ballots expected in November’s election.
Across the country, Republicans aligned with Trump have directed their ire at electronic voting machines, including Republicans at least six states Legislation banning the use of ballots passed this year (Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, New Hampshire, Washington and West Virginia). Above 90% of US electoral districts currently use electronic tabs, with only the smallest districts opting to hand-count votes.
GET THE TOMORROW HEADLINES IN YOUR INBOX
Many of the conspiracies surrounding voting machines after the 2020 election have focused on Dominion Voting Systems technology. Trump lawyers have alleged without any basis that Dominion employees colluded with outside groups, liberal donor George Soros and Venezuela to steal the presidential contest from Trump. Dominion has filed several defamation lawsuits against those who peddled the conspiracies.
Election experts say hand counting, as the standard method of counting ballots that requires all voters to cast paper votes, is incredibly expensive, tedious, and time-consuming.
“This is completely unnecessary,” said Jonathan Diaz, senior legal counsel at the Campaign Legal Center. “There is no evidence or reason ballot tabs don’t work.”
As a matter of fact, research shows that vote tabs are more accurate than hand counts, which allow for a large amount of human error, especially when the people counting the ballots are overworked and tired during an election.
Tabs are typically certified by the US Election Assistance Commission, and jurisdictions almost always test them before an election to ensure their functionality and accuracy. Jurisdictions often hand count smaller groups of ballots after using a tab to check the accuracy of the results.
Tabs also allow accessibility features To support voters with disabilities who cannot handwrite a paper ballot.
The Bipartisan Policy Center, a think tank that uses ideas from both parties, recommends combining machine tabs with paper ballot verification. “This balance minimizes the potential for human error during vote counting, while maintaining a strong system of manual error checking to uncover discrepancies that may arise during tabulation,” they said write in an explainer.
Diaz said he suspects those pushing for hand counting don’t really care about tab safety.
“I don’t think the push to manually count ballots is really motivated by concerns about accuracy or technology,” he said. “I think it’s really just an attempt to slow down the process and create more confusion and make things harder for poll workers.”
To hand-count all ballots, Nye County plans to have teams of three look at batches of 50 ballots. Kampf said he has already recruited 57 volunteers to help with the process. according to that Las Vegas Review Journal.
Kampf did not respond to an interview request.
While Nye County will count its ballots by hand this year, it will also tabulate its votes using electronic machines. Officials have said the goal is to eliminate the use of machines for future elections, but will use both methods this year allowed the county to avoid new state regulations for counties that only do hand counts.
In late August, the Nevada Secretary of State’s office announced temporary regulations to go into effect Oct. 1 for the general election, including requiring bipartisan counts. Nevada law does not prohibit hand counting, and the bureau wanted to be prepared if more counties decide to switch.
Election experts said hand counting should not be allowed and therefore does not need to be regulated. in the testimony presented The Campaign Legal Center told Mark Vlashin, assistant secretary for elections, why manually counting ballots would not improve accuracy or speed.
“A hand count requirement would not only delay the transmission of results, but also seriously impair county officials’ ability to fulfill their critical responsibility for conducting the election safely and accurately,” wrote attorney Julie Hochsztein.
The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada filed a lawsuit against the state after the regulations were announced, claiming that they are depriving Nevadans of their right to a uniform, statewide standard for counting votes. The group declined to comment on the pending case.
“The temporary arrangement threatens to create electoral chaos,” the complaint said, noting that “votes cast in different districts, constituencies or campaigns may be counted very differently.”
The current Foreign Minister, Barbara Cegavske, is on a limited term. Jim Marchant, an election denier who is the Republican nominee to replace her, was one of the most vocal powers behind the state’s push to introduce hand counting. He has said that if elected he would give up electronic voting machines.
Democrat Cisco Aguilar, who faces Marchant in November, said State Newsroom that he is worried about the future of the Nevada election if Marchant wins.
“What he’s doing is irresponsible and dangerous,” Aguilar said. “He’s not a serious leader, but the threat he poses is extremely serious.”
Esmeralda County in Nevada also switched to hand counting, but the county is the most sparsely populated in the state with just 1,030 residents as of 2020, according to U.S. census data. Still, it cost the county more than seven hours in the June primary to count 317 ballots.
At that rate, it would have taken Clark County, Nevada’s most populous county, 6,375 hours, or more than 265 days, to hand-count the 288,683 ballots cast in the June primary. Larger counties could undoubtedly allocate more staff, volunteers and resources to the census, but the process would undoubtedly require the county to miss the vote certification deadline.
The longer the public has to wait for election results, the more time candidates have to sow distrust in the results and spread false theories and information.
Outside of Nevada
In Arizona, Republican gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake and nominee for secretary of state Mark Finchem, both of whom said the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, filed a lawsuit alleging baseless allegations about the security of electronic ballots and demanding hand counting of ballots.
They alleged that the lawsuit was not aimed at voiding the 2020 election results — cyber ninjas who conducted an audit of the Maricopa County vote, conducted a hand count and found that Joe Biden actually got more votes than the official one Vorsprung won – but over future elections.
In response to the lawsuit, election officials testified that manual counting was extremely expensive and required immense manpower. They also said electronic voting machines are not connected to the internet and cannot be hacked. a judge dismissed the lawsuit in August and Lake and Finchem have appealed against this judgment.
If Lake and Finchem win in November, they will be able to change the way the state counts its ballots. Arizona law does not mandate the use of electronic vote counting machines. The foreign minister also has the power to decertify machines, so Finchem could do that and refuse to certify new ones.
In New Hampshire, groups opposed to electronic tabs have found a way to force election officials in large counties to count some ballots in last week’s primary, despite the state’s widespread use of AccuVote optical scanners that are not compatible with the Internet connected cannot be hacked.
Conservative-leaning groups shared posts online urging voters to fill in candidates’ names, even if the candidate was already printed on the ballot. Ballots with registered candidates are separated for hand counting.
Foreign Secretary David Scanlan said the effort had slowed the release of the results by hours in some counties.
“It really puts a strain on the system when poll workers who have been there for 12 to 16 hours now have to count all those ballots at the end of the night,” Scanlan said told a local reporter with the Keene Sentinel. “It probably increases the likelihood of errors.”