Nevada judge mulls Vegas-area vote handler partisanship case

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Nevada judge said Wednesday he’ll decide whether to order Las Vegas-area election officials to hire more Republican poll workers after the GOP national committee argued that the partisan makeup of a 64-member ballot signature verification board was unfair.

Clark County District Court Judge Timothy Williams said he expected to issue a ruling by Thursday on the Republican National Committee allegation that county elections chief Joe Gloria “stacked” the board to favor Democrats over Republicans.

“All the political parties should have a seat at the table,” attorney Jordan Smith argued on behalf of the RNC during an hour-long hearing before Williams. “The reason is, by having all political parties, it’s a check and a balance.”

Smith complained that the partisan makeup of the signature verification panel changed between Oct. 18 — when the county reported to the RNC that it had 23 Democrats, 33 nonpartisans and eight Republicans — and Monday, with 10 Democrats, 18 nonpartisans and 12 Republicans.

A county spokesman, Dan Kulin, said Wednesday he did not immediately have an updated breakout of signature verification workers’ party affiliations.

Lisa Logsdon, Clark County counsel representing Gloria, told the judge that hiring is not done according to political affiliation, and panel rosters change daily depending on people’s work availability.

Logsdon added that checking signatures on mailed ballots against signatures on file with the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles to validate a ballot for counting “is not a partisan job.”

Clark County, including Las Vegas, is the most populous of Nevada’s 17 counties, with almost 2.4 million of the state’s 3.2 million residents and more than 71% of the state’s 1.8 million active registered voters.

Active voter registration leans Democratic in Clark County — about 35% to 26% for Republicans — with almost 39% claiming other or no party affiliation. As of Wednesday, almost 128,000 people had voted in Clark County in advance of Election Day, Nov. 8.

The county registrar of voters has a year-round staff of about 40, Logsdon said, and hires nearly 2,000 people for temporary positions “to staff our signature verification room.” Hiring is a process left to the registrar’s discretion, she said.

Christopher Dodge, a lawyer representing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, suggested that it would be improper for the county elections chief to screen applicants for jobs by political party affiliation.

Dodge added that the party affiliation of the person who signed a ballot being screened is not known to people comparing the handwriting samples.

“They’re comparing signatures on an envelope,” he said. “They have no idea who the voter is.”

Dodge also noted that mail ballot processing is underway and told the judge that Smith and the Republican National Committee “are essentially asking you to place their own hyper-partisans at the end of signature verification.”

“That’s likely to be very disruptive,” the Democratic party attorney said.

Smith said the RNC was not trying to stop voting or mail-ballot processing, or undo any completed work, just correct an imbalance on the 64-member board.

In a court filing submitted last Friday asking Williams to hear the case, the RNC called the staffing “lopsided” and “not remotely ‘as equal as possible’” under state law.

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