ACLU of Nevada Sues Nye County For Hand Counting All Ballots

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Monday, Nov. 14, the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada (ACLU of Nevada) filed a petition in the Nevada Supreme Court seeking to stop Nye County election officials from conducting a “parallel hand-count,” a process that entails hand counting all ballots that have already been tabulated with a machine. In its petition, the ACLU of Nevada alleges that the county’s parallel hand count process, which began on Nov. 10, violates Nevada law and “threatens voters’ rights to accurate elections by compromising the security of their ballots.” Specifically, the ACLU of Nevada argues that the county’s plan was not “submitted by the deadline imposed by Nevada statute and approved by the Secretary of State as required by law” and claims that the “[r]espondents have moved all ballots and have begun counting them at a location not approved as a central counting place pursuant to a plan submitted to the Secretary of State prior to the April 15, 2022, as required by Nevada law.” Moreover, the petitioner notes that, under Nevada law, ballots may only be counted a second time under three circumstances: a recount, an audit or a contest. The petitioner asserts that Nye County’s “parallel hand-count process” does not meet the requirements for any of these three circumstances under Nevada law, which only “provides for a second count of ballots after the close of polls on Election Day” and does not permit “a county clerk to conduct a hand count of all ballots on their own initiative.” The petitioner ultimately asks the court to issue a writ of mandamus (a court order compelling a party to take a certain action) to order Nye County to “cease” its “parallel hand-count process” and to issue an order declaring said process in violation of Nevada law. 

Notably, this petition comes after a whirlwind of litigation surrounding Nye County’s plan to conduct a hand count. On Oct. 21, the Nevada Supreme court issued a unanimous decision in another lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Nevada holding that Nye County is prohibited from live streaming the vote counting process in which election results are read aloud prior to polls closing on Election Day. Subsequently, on Oct. 25, in a separate lawsuit filed by the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, the Nevada Supreme Court affirmed a lower court’s decision allowing Nevada’s statewide hand counting guidance — which permitted county recorders to hand count ballots (as opposed to using an electronic counter) at their discretion as long as they submitted their plan by the set deadline — to remain in place for the 2022 midterm elections. In this Oct. 25 decision, however, the court noted that “no county submitted the proposed plan required by the regulation in order to use hand-counting as its primary vote count method” by the state’s Oct. 9 deadline, meaning that the court’s order did not change any planned methods of vote counting across the state. Nevertheless, Nye County made clear that it would stick to its original plan of “engag[ing] in a ‘parallel tabulation’ process that involves running paper ballots through the typical mechanical tabulators and checking the results with an additional hand count of all ballots.”

Then, on Oct. 28, Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske (R) sent a letter to Nye County telling the county commissioner that the “current Nye County hand counting process must cease immediately” after it became apparent that observers would be able to hear result tallies during the counting process in violation of the Nevada Supreme Court’s Oct. 21 order obtained by the ACLU of Nevada. Finally, on Nov. 4, the secretary of state once again rejected Nye County’s plan to conduct a hand count, stating that the county’s modified procedure still raises “concerns relating to the integrity of the election.” Nevertheless, the county flouted the secretary of state’s instructions and proceeded with its “parallel hand count” process on Nov. 10, thereby creating the impetus for today’s lawsuit. The lawsuit filed today by the ACLU of Nevada seeks relief from the Nevada Supreme Court by the end of the day, Nov. 14.

Read the petition here. 

Learn more about the case here.