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The ACLU Sues a Nevada County Over Its Plan to Hand-Count Mail Ballots


The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against a rural county over its move to begin hand-counting mail-in ballots two weeks before Election Day, saying it could violate state and federal laws.

The lawsuit is the newest effort to fight the Nye County commission’s plans to conduct the Nov. 8 election almost entirely with paper ballots and have the vote tallied by hand, along with machine tabulation. Election experts have warned that such measures could lead on to lengthy delays and chaos.

The changes, encouraged by Jim Marchant, the Republican who’s running for the state’s top election post, are rooted in baseless conspiracy theories being circulated on the fitting that voting machines are getting used fraudulently.

Mr. Marchant, who has been vocal in difficult the 2020 presidential election result, didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

The suit was filed as an emergency request referred to as a writ and goals to stop the county from adopting the measures, said Athar Haseebullah, the A.C.L.U.’s executive director within the state.

“They’re treating our democracy as if it’s a game,” Mr. Haseebullah said. “It must be deeply offensive to everybody who cares concerning the strategy of election integrity.”

Mark Kampf, the Nye County clerk who was appointed to the post in August after the retirement of Sandra Merlino, who had warned against the changes, didn’t reply to multiple requests for comment.

The hand-counting process could be done in public; a presentation at a Sept. 20 county commissioners meeting indicated it could be streamed live and that “residents turn into poll watchers at home.”

Mr. Haseebullah said that would have a “chilling effect” on voter turnout and potentially violate a state law that asserts that “no voting results of mail ballots could also be released until all polling places are closed and all votes have been solid on the day of the election.”

“There’s a longstanding tradition within the U.S. of not releasing results before Election Day,” said Gowri Ramachandran, senior counsel for the Brennan Center’s Elections and Government Program, which has urged the county against hand-counting. Voters could feel “manipulated by partial results coming out and making them feel like that their vote doesn’t count or their vote doesn’t matter,” Ms. Ramachandran said.

Mr. Kampf dismissed such concerns in an interview with The Associated Press, saying that “nobody sees the full lead to anywhere.”

The county is permitting the usage of electronic voting machines for those with “special needs,” which the suit claims would violate state and federal privacy laws that prohibit inquiries about voters’ disability status.

Mr. Marchant, who blamed fraud for his 2020 loss in Nevada’s Fourth Congressional District, helped organize the “America First” slate of secretary of state candidates this yr, all of whom have repeated former President Donald J. Trump’s election falsehoods. Mr. Marchant is competing against Cisco Aguilar, a Democratic lawyer who once worked for former Senator Harry M. Reid.

Democrats have long been successful in Nevada, but this yr, they’re facing potential losses up and down the ballot within the state.

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