On Wednesday we learned that a rural county in Nevada was beginning the process of hand-counting all of the mail-in ballots that had been received for the midterm elections thus far. It was a contentious process, with Democrats and liberal activist groups furiously filing lawsuits to attempt to prevent the count from taking place in advance of the machine voting that will happen on election day. That process paid off for them because a ruling from the state supreme court led to the count being halted yet again, though the media descriptions of the ruling make it less than clear that the court would terminate the count completely. For example, this report from the Associated Press claims that the court found the hand count to be “illegal.” But that seems to be a disingenuous description at best.
An unprecedented hand-count of mail-in ballots in a rural Nevada county is on hold and may not resume after the Nevada Supreme Court said in an after-hours ruling the current process is illegal and the Republican secretary of state directed the county clerk to “cease immediately.”
Volunteers in rural Nye County had wrapped up a second day of hand-counting the ballots on Thursday by the time the Supreme Court issued a three-page opinion siding with objections raised by the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada.
Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, who is in charge of elections and has been been one of the GOP’s most vocal critics of the sort of voter-fraud conspiracy theories that fueled the hand tallying of ballots, said the “hand-counting process must cease immediately.”
Reading further into the details of the court’s ruling in favor of the ACLU of Nevada, it is not stated that the act of counting the ballots is “illegal.” What they really said was that at least one aspect of the process that was settled on as to how the ballots would be counted violated the rules that the courts had previously established. If that aspect of the process is corrected, there would appear to be nothing stopping the county from resuming the count.
The AP report eventually admits that the court’s order “stopped short of ordering a halt to the recount.” But they did agree with an emergency order filed by the ACLU. At issue was a portion of the original court order that the count is done in such a way that “prevents public release of early results before polls close to in-person voting Nov. 8.” Observers from various groups were in the six rooms where the ballots were being counted and read aloud and one of them – from the ACLU – appeared to be taking notes of the results as they were read. This was interpreted as a possible way for the totals counted in that room to make it into the public. So in essence, the ACLU tainted the process as a way to get the count shut down.
Because we now live in Bizzaro World, the ACLU spokesman said, “Today is a victory for all who believe in democracy.” Apparently, ensuring an accurate count of all the ballots that are cast is now somehow a threat to democracy on the left.
What remains unexplained in this entire debacle is why the ACLU and the Nevada Democrats are so virulently opposed to having anyone count the physical ballots. What possible motivation could anyone have to prevent the full tally of votes from being compared to the machine-voting results? (Unless, of course, you have some reason to suspect that the totals would not match.)
I suppose I can understand why election officials wouldn’t want the mail-in vote totals to be released to the public early. If the vote is too lopsided in either direction, it might discourage turnout on election day. But knowing the mail-in ballot totals is not the same a “publishing the election results” because you still wouldn’t know who won until all of the in-person votes are counted. This entire argument just seems silly at this point.