WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, Oct. 4, the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and a voter filed a lawsuit challenging Nye County’s “unlawful hand counting process.” The lawsuit comes after the Nye County clerk’s office announced on Sept. 6 that the county will “conduct a parallel electronic tabulation of the voted paper ballots along with a hand count of those ballots.” Furthermore, the clerk’s office unveiled guidance on Sept. 20 that includes the limitation of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant touch screens to “those with special needs” and imposes strict signature matching requirements under which “the voter [must] show an ID if their signature does not match.” The plaintiffs allege that this new guidance violates both state and federal law and seek a writ of mandamus (a court order compelling a party to take a certain action) to prevent the enactment of the new Nye County election procedures.
The plaintiffs allege that the new process — which would allow for “the verbal announcement” of partial results “prior to the close of polls on election day, in the presence of the public” — violates Nevada law, as it will result in the early release of election results. Additionally, the plaintiffs allege that the “limitation of ADA touch screens to individuals with ‘special needs’” violates the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and Nevada Constitution because “it impermissibly permits election workers to enquire about a voter’s disability or turn away otherwise eligible voters based on arbitrary decision making.” Lastly, the plaintiffs challenge the county’s use of strict signature matching rules that authorize election officials to require a Nevada “identification card if the signature fails” for violating Nevada law. The plaintiffs allege that the proposals “are a rushed attempt to circumvent democracy” and that the hand counting process “will undoubtedly impede Nye County voters from exercising their right to vote.”
Notably, this is not the only lawsuit in Nevada regarding ballot counting regulations. On Aug. 26, the Nevada secretary of state issued new guidance that allows county recorders to hand count ballots (as opposed to using an electronic counter) at their discretion. The guidance does not mandate a uniform method of hand counting across counties. In response, a lawsuit was filed alleging that the secretary of state’s guidance would create chaos in the tabulation process across Nevada. On Tuesday, Sept. 27, a Nevada state court declined to temporarily block this guidance, meaning that counties will continue to have guidance that is not uniform.