Nevada county refuses to certify results of two local primaries

Local officials in Washoe County, Nevada, voted Tuesday against certifying the results of two primary election recounts after a leading election denialist claimed the results were fraudulent and demanded a hand count of the results.

Robert Beadles, a proponent of former president donald trump who has promoted election conspiracy theories, spent $150,000 to recount three local races in the June primary in Washoe County. One candidate later withdrew the request for a recount, but officials spent days recounting the thousands of votes cast and discovered a two-vote discrepancy one vote in every racethat had no effect on the significant margin of victory in the two remaining races.

But during a contentious meeting of the Washoe County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, dozens of people spoke out for and against certification, many of them demanding a manual recount instead of a machine one.

Experts have long believed that manually counting ballots is more expensive, error-prone and time-consuming than counting by machine.

It is unclear what will happen to the two primaries in question — for a nonpartisan school board position and a Republican county commissioner position — or to the county commissioners who refused to certify the election results.

Washoe County spokeswoman Bethany Drysdale said county officials are leaving it up to Nevada Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar, a Democrat, to decide what comes next. Aguilar’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Washoe County, where Reno is located, is Nevada’s second-largest county with nearly half a million residents and has been a hotbed of claims of voter fraud, despite scant evidence. It is expected to be another key swing state in this year’s presidential election.

Cari-Ann Burgess, the interim registrar of voters for Washoe County, said her office did all due diligence in recounting 50,000 ballots.

“We’ve looked at every part of the election,” Burgess told commissioners Tuesday. The two-vote discrepancy found in the recount was due to a poll worker’s failure to discern voter intent and copying ballots that couldn’t be scanned by the machines in a process called adjudication, she said.

Beadles has protested elections in Washoe County for years. Reuters reported that a former clerk and several staff members have resigned in response to the intimidation they experienced over his claims.

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

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

Washoe County Commissioner Michael Clark, a Republican, said he was “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 is increasingly being used to promote claims of voter fraud.

In 2022, a county board in rural Otero County, New Mexico, initially refused 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 reverse her vote and the results were certified.

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