Trump Campaign Loses Nevada Suit to Halt Mail-In Ballot Counting
(Bloomberg) -- Nevada’s top court denied President Donald Trump’s request to halt ballot counting in the state’s biggest county amid a dispute over the accuracy of its signature-matching technology and public access for election observers who claim they’re being kept too far from the action.
The Nevada Supreme Court late Tuesday said Trump’s campaign and the Nevada GOP failed to produce evidence backing their claim of wrongdoing in Clark County -- the same conclusion reached by a lower court judge last week. The county, home to Las Vegas, is a Democratic stronghold in a battleground state.
The Supreme Court concluded that Republicans’ allegations lacked evidentiary support, and their request for relief wasn’t supported by their filings.
“It is unclear from the motion how appellants are being prevented from observing the process or that the use of the Agilis machine is prohibited,” the court ruled, referring to the signature-matching technology.
In a response filed just before the ruling, the Nevada Democratic Party and Democratic National Committee said the county’s method for allowing observation is fair given the resurgent coronavirus infections, and that the accuracy of artificial intelligence used to match signatures is in-line with other counties that have far fewer ballots to count.
“It should not be lost on this court that these Republican petitioners ask for emergency relief for just one of Nevada’s 17 counties, the state’s largest Democratic stronghold,” the Democrats said. “There is no reason to upset ballots processing at this late hour anywhere in the state, but to do so under such politically suspect motives makes the request relief all the more unwarranted.”
Trump has pledged a fierce legal fight over vote counting that would drag on long after polls close. Until now, the battle has focused mostly on curtailing Democratic efforts to loosen rules for voting by mail during the pandemic. The president’s campaign previously sued Nevada to block its plan to automatically send ballots to all registered voters, but the suit failed.
The campaign asked the state Supreme Court on Tuesday to expedite its review of the case, which Judge James E. Wilson rejected last week, ruling the campaign hadn’t provided enough evidence to back its claim of wrongdoing by Clark County officials.
In a statement Tuesday, Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, a Democrat, called the case “the Trump Campaign and Nevada Republican Party’s attempt to disrupt the election process in Clark County.”
‘Ripe for Error’
The campaign and the Nevada GOP claim the vote-by-mail system being used in Clark County “creates a process ripe for error or abuse.”
It also pointed to a machine used by the county that scans ballots and attempts to use artificial intelligence to match signatures with those on record. The machines aren’t set to high enough sensitivity to accurately match the signatures, Trump’s campaign claims.
The settings are “casting doubt on whether the system reads any signature accurately,” the Nevada Republican Party said in a Tuesday statement.
The campaign said some observers are being kept as far as 25 feet away (8 meters) from the counting process, where they can’t see election workers’ computer screens or observe phone calls to voters who need to fix issues with their ballots. It also said an offer by Republicans to pay for a camera to record the process as an alternative to in-person observation was refused.
Wilson said there’s no constitutional right to photograph or videotape the ballot-counting process. He also ruled there was no evidence “that there was an error in matching a ballot signature” or that “any election staff were biased or prejudiced for or against any party or candidate.”
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