Commission race in limbo with candidates separated by just 10 votes

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John Locher / AP

In this Nov. 5, 2020, photo, a county election worker moves boxes of mail-in ballots at a tabulating area at the Clark County Election Department in Las Vegas.

Published Mon, Nov 16, 2020 (2:42 p.m.)

Updated Mon, Nov 16, 2020 (7:15 p.m.)

Clark County is holding off on certifying the extraordinarily close race for one of its commission seats and could even hold a new election.

The Clark County Commission was set to accept the full results of the Nov. 3 election today, including Ross Miller’s tentative, 10-vote victory over Stavros Anthony for the open District C seat.

But concerns about the results — with Miller’s 76,586 votes to Anthony’s 76,576 — led the commission to delay certifying the race for at least two more weeks, pending further investigation.

Lawyers representing the Anthony campaign told commissioners in a letter that they should consider delaying certification of the race because several “possible voter irregularities” need to be addressed.

Commissioner Jim Gibson said the commission could either certify the race, allowing Anthony to formally contest the result with the courts and potentially lead a judge to rule for a special do-over election, or the commission can directly decide to call the second election itself.

“The credibility of everything that we do is something that can be affirmed by simply doing that rather than waiting for some court to tell us how to conduct our business,” Gibson said.

Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria will return before the commission with options and estimated costs for a special election at the commission’s Dec.  1 meeting.

Attempts to reach Miller were unsuccessful. Anthony didn’t immediately responded to a request for comment.

The issues that Anthony’s campaign cited include evidence of double-voting, mail ballots accepted in the general election from addresses that kicked them back as undeliverable in the June primary and other potential inaccurate address issues, and, per research by Anthony’s campaign, statements from more than two dozen voters claiming ballots from their addresses were returned by people who did not live there.

“With a 10-vote margin … separating Mr. Anthony and Mr. Miller, the utmost consideration and careful review should be given to the voters of District C and the counting of their votes so that an accurate final tally can be confidently given,” the campaign lawyers said by way of Anthony representative Lisa Mayo-DeRiso, who read the letter aloud at the commission meeting. They also called for a review of signed mail ballot envelopes, which are separated before the ballots are fed into scanners.

Democrat Miller and Republican Anthony are vying for the seat held by termed-out Commissioner Larry Brown. District C includes the northwest corner of the Las Vegas Valley, Mount Charleston, and portions of Lone Mountain and Red Rock.

Brown himself made the motion to delay certification of District C’s votes. 

Gloria said of 974,185 ballots cast countywide, there were 936 discrepancies. Those included tracking mail ballots from automated signature verification to the counting board process, and in-person check-in and voter card activation errors.

No election is without discrepancies, Gloria said, but his office’s practice has been to determine that the margin of victory is larger than the discrepancies so the race can be certified.

Six voters voted twice, Gloria said. He did not give further details.

District C saw 139 discrepancies, reflecting the same type seen countywide. That means that not only do they surpass the margin of victory, but they can’t be resolved by a recount.

“With such a large mail ballot number, that number that I’ve identified is actually in the thousandths of a percent. So it was fairly accurate work,” Gloria said. “With 218 precincts (in District C) and a margin of victory of 10, it’s very difficult to get through that without having the discrepancy being larger than the margin of victory.”

President Donald Trump took note on Twitter, responding to a Tweet from his Nevada campaign co-chair and former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who defeated Miller for the top prosecutor’s slot in 2014.

“Big victory moments ago in the State of Nevada,” the president posted. “The all Democrat County Commissioner race, on same ballot as President, just thrown out because of large scale voter discrepancy. Clark County officials do not have confidence in their own election security. Major impact!”

Miller was Nevada secretary of state from 2007 to 2015. Anthony is Las Vegas mayor pro tem and has represented Ward 4 on the City Council since 2009.

Kurt Mueller, an attorney representing several individual voters, said a total revote is necessary. 

“There were so many fundamental flaws here with this election that nobody could reasonably believe that these outcomes — whatever side of the party, whichever side your issues are — can they believe that this election reflects the will of the people,” Mueller said.

Criticizing the county’s use of the Agilis signature-verification system, he said Gloria “flooded the county with 93,000 additional ballots” that shouldn’t have gone out. Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick admonished him to be respectful of Gloria’s work, and that he takes direction from the commission.

The commission did, however, appear open to another election to clarify voters’ choices.

Gibson said he initially thought both candidates’ concerns over the last several days of counting in the tight race could be solved by a recount.

“This additional complication, in my estimation, elevates it to a place where the transcendent importance of the commission and this institution, the county, Mr. Gloria’s reputation and the entire election department’s reputation, in my estimation, is affected by the action that we take,” he said.

The last time Clark County held a revote because of a razor-thin margin was in 2018 in the Republican primary for county public administrator.

The commission accepted the results of all the other races on the Nov. 3 ballot, including Clark County’s selection of Joe Biden in the presidential race.

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