Nevada judge denies Trump request to separate early voting ballots
WASHINGTON — A Nevada court judge denied a request Tuesday from Donald Trump campaign lawyers to issue an order directing a county registrar of voters to preserve and separate ballots from voting machines in four early voting sites in Clark County, Nevada.
In legal briefs filed Monday night, Trump lawyers had asked for an order to have the pertinent early vote ballots not to be “co-mingled or interspersed” with other ballots after the campaign alleged the county registrar kept polling locations open beyond their designated hours.
Judge Gloria Sturman, of the District Court for Clark County Nevada, ruled from the bench, saying County Registrar of Voters Joe P. Gloria was already obligated by state law to maintain the records that the Trump campaign is seeking.
The judge at times expressed frustration with Brian Hardy, a lawyer for the Trump campaign.
“I am not ordering him (Gloria) to preserve anything,” she said, adding, “This is Election Day. He has other things to be doing.”
The Trump campaign had said Gloria kept polling locations open “two hours beyond the designated closing time.” The lawsuit targeted polling places in the greater Las Vegas area that have larger minority voting precincts.
Dan Kulin, a spokesperson for the county, told CNN that no early voting stations extended their closing times. They did, however, process voters who were in line at closing time to allow as many people to vote as possible.
“From the polling, it appears that Nevada is so close that the Trump campaign thinks it’s worth challenging any violation in voting protocol. The numbers that came in could represent several thousand people across the four precincts, which could determine who wins the electoral college vote or change the Senate race,” said Robert Lang of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He said the Trump campaign is “smart to put a marker down for a future challenge, considering what happened in 2000 in Florida.”
Officials with the Republican National Committee declined to further discuss their action with reporters on a conference call early Tuesday afternoon. In a statement earlier Tuesday, Charles Muñoz, Trump’s Nevada state director, said that the the developments “should be troubling to anyone who is interested in free and fair elections.”
“Voters who showed up after the scheduled closing times at selected locations were allowed to vote, while those who were not able to make it to other early voting sites by the posted closing times were denied the right to cast their ballots,” Munoz said in a statement. “Even more concerning is that Clark County employees seem to be facilitating illegal activity, at the direction of Joe Gloria, whose primary function is to ensure the integrity of elections in Clark County.”
The registrar’s office said in a statement that the Trump campaign’s request to preserve the records “is required by state law, and so it is something we are already doing.”
Nevada’s Republican Party chairman, Michael McDonald, told a Trump audience in Reno on Saturday that polling locations were kept open late so that a “certain group” could vote.
“Last night, in Clark County, they kept a poll open ’til 10 o’clock at night so a certain group could vote,” McDonald said in introductory remarks at a Trump rally. “The polls are supposed to close at 7. This was kept open until 10. Yeah, you feel free right now? You think this is a free and easy election? That’s why it’s important.”
Clark County, which includes the suburbs of Las Vegas, has a large Hispanic population and could figure prominently in who wins the White House.
At Saturday’s rally, Trump suggested that the polling location’s extended closing time to allow voters to cast their ballots was a sign of a “rigged system” pitted against his campaign.
“It’s being reported that certain key Democratic polling locations in Clark County were kept open for hours and hours beyond closing time to bus and bring democratic voters in. Folks, it’s a rigged system. It’s a rigged system and we’re going to beat it. We’re going to beat it,” Trump said.