Nevada county refuses to certify results of two local primaries

Local officials in Washoe County, Nevada, voted Tuesday against certifying the results of two recounted primary races after a prominent election denier claimed the results were fraudulent and demanded hand counts of the results.

Robert Beadles, a supporter of former President Donald Trump who has promoted election conspiracy theories, spent $150,000 to recount three local races in Washoe County’s June primary. One candidate later withdrew the request for a recount, but officials spent days re-tabulating the thousands of votes cast and found a two-vote difference one vote in each racethat had no effect on the significant margins of victory in the two remaining races.

The three Republican commissioners on the Washoe County board voted against certifying the two primaries — for a nonpartisan school board position and a Republican county commissioner position — while the two Democrats voted in favor.

At a meeting Tuesday, dozens of people spoke for and against certification, many of the latter demanding recounts by hand instead of by machine.

Experts have long found that hand-counting ballots is more expensive, more error-prone and more time-consuming than using machine tabulators.

It’s unclear what will happen now in the two primaries in question.

Bethany Drysdale, a spokesperson for Washoe County, said county officials are deferring to Nevada Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar, a Democrat, for next steps.

In a statement Wednesday, Aguilar said: “This week, three county commissioners refused to canvass accurate election results as required by law. This vote has the potential to set a dangerous precedent for elections in Nevada. It is unacceptable that any public officer would undermine the confidence of their voters.”

Washoe County, home to Reno, is the second-largest county in Nevada, with nearly a half-million residents, and it has been a hotbed of voter fraud claims despite little evidence. It is also expected to again be a key swing area in the battleground state in this year’s presidential election.

Cari-Ann Burgess, the county’s interim registrar of voters, said her office did all the necessary due diligence when it recounted 50,000 ballots.

“We looked at every portion of the election again,” Burgess told the commissioners Tuesday. The two-vote difference found in the recount was due to poll worker’s error in discerning voter intent and replicating ballots that would not scan through the machines in a process called adjudication, she said.

Beadles has spent years railing against Washoe County’s elections. Reuters reported that one previous registrar and several staffers quit in response to the harassment they experienced because of his claims.

During Tuesday’s meeting, many people cited Beadles’ claim as evidence of fraud.

“The only thing you can do to fulfill your oath of office today is to invalidate those results and immediately schedule a new election done solely with hand-counted paper ballots,” one of the candidates for the school board, Paul White, said at the meeting, speaking against certification of the race he lost.

County Commissioner Michael Clark, a Republican, said he is “not an election denier … but I’ve seen a lot of mismanagement.” He later voted against certification.

The once-routine process of certifying local election results has increasingly become a venue for pushing voter fraud claims.

In 2022, a county board in rural Otero County, New Mexico, initially declined to certify the results of its June primary. After the state Supreme Court ordered it to do so and the board members were threatened with criminal charges, a commissioner agreed to flip her vote, and the results were certified.