Judge rules Nevada ballot-counting legal in blow to Republicans

Republicans are leading a legal campaign against mail-in voting, citing ‘fraud’ that experts say rarely happens.

People wait in line to vote at a polling place on the final day of early voting in Las Vegas [John Locher/AP Photo]

A Nevada judge has ruled that ballot-counting measures in the state’s largest county, home to Las Vegas, were legal, in a setback to US President Donald Trump and Republican officials in a battleground state ahead of Tuesday’s election.

Their suit claimed the counting process in Clark County was plagued by several issues, including observers not being able to get to where they needed to observe the count and ballots being handled in a way observers deemed improper.

Trump’s campaign, the state’s Republican Party and an individual voter filed the lawsuit against Nevada’s secretary of state and the Clark County registrar on October 23. The ruling, issued on Thursday, was released on Monday.

Trump is trailing Democratic nominee Joe Biden in opinion polls in Nevada, one of a dozen battleground states that traditionally decide presidential elections.

Members of a mariachi band look on as Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks about the disproportionate ways COVID-19 has affected Latinos in Nevada during a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

Judge James Wilson said the plaintiffs in the Nevada case did not have legal standing to bring the case and had not provided evidence that the county’s processes had led to the counting of fraudulent votes.

“There is no evidence that any vote that should lawfully not be counted has been or will be counted. There is no evidence that any election worker did anything outside of the law, policy, or procedures,” the judge wrote.

Trump has repeatedly warned of fraud, although election experts say that is rare in US elections. Both campaigns have mobilised armies of lawyers in preparation for post-election litigation battles.

Republicans have faced a mixed bag of court decisions regarding absentee ballots. The Supreme Court on October 29 ruled that Pennsylvania and North Carolina, both toss-up states, may extend deadlines for receiving and county ballots. The court did not afford Wisconsin the same extension.

The Texas Supreme Court rejected on Sunday Republican efforts to toss 127,000 ballots cast in drive-through voting in Democrat-leaning Harris County, home of Houston.

A similar case is before a federal court in Texas on Monday. The federal judge hearing the case appeared sceptical.

The judge said the plaintiffs needed to show that Harris County clerk Chris Hollins, a Democrat, had an “evil motive” in allowing drive-through voting as an alternative during the coronavirus pandemic.

US District Judge Andrew Hanen also questioned the last-minute timing of the case.

“Didn’t we test this in the primaries this summer?” The judge asked a lawyer for the plaintiffs, adding: “Why am I just getting this case?”

The lawsuit was brought on Wednesday by plaintiffs including state Representative Steve Toth, conservative activist Steve Hotze, and judicial candidate Sharon Hemphill.

Texas has been a Republican stronghold for decades, though many polls show the state could be up for grabs.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies