Clark County commissioners vote to require all employees to wear masks indoors at work

Employees of businesses across Clark County will be required to wear masks while working in indoor public spaces as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rapidly rise across the Las Vegas Valley.

The new mask mandate, which members of the Clark County Commission approved during an emergency meeting on Tuesday, will apply to all businesses in incorporated cities and unincorporated parts of the county and takes effect at the stroke of midnight on Thursday. Commissioners framed the decision, which they approved unanimously, as a way to buy time as health officials work to boost low vaccination rates in the county and hospitals continue to fill up with COVID-19 patients.

“We have to do something because we can't afford to allow hospitals to become [even worse] in terms of their crowding,” Commissioner Jim Gibson said.

Employees will be allowed to remove their masks while working alone in their office or another enclosed space but must wear one when entering and exiting those spaces. The mask mandate will remain in place at least through August 17, when county commissioners will evaluate what steps to take next.

The decision to reimpose a mask mandate, even just for employees, represents the most concrete action taken by local officials to respond to climbing case numbers in the county, after Southern Nevada Health District officials on Friday recommended — not required — all vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals wear masks in crowded indoor public spaces. As of Tuesday, Clark County’s seven-day average case rate had climbed to 727, a number the county hasn’t seen since early February.

Gov. Steve Sisolak, in a statement on Tuesday, lauded Clark County’s decision.

“I support the Clark County Commission for using their local authority to issue this mitigation measure amid significant community transmission in Southern Nevada and as we continue our joint effort to increase access and confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines,” Sisolak said. “The State remains completely committed to provide every resource and support available to all of our counties as we see a rise in cases among the unvaccinated, driven by the Delta variant.”

Though the commission was united in its decision, some commissioners voiced skepticism about whether a narrow mask mandate on employees would be enough to stem the rising tide of cases. Across the border in Los Angeles County, where case numbers are less than half of what is being seen in Clark County, residents are being required to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.

“I don't have a problem with this concept of moving forward today with requiring employees to be masked, but I don't pretend that I think that it's going to have much of an effect ... on transmission of the virus,” Commissioner Justin Jones said. “If the headline from this meeting is that we imposed a mandate on employees, then we will have failed.”

In an hour-long public comment period before the commission’s discussion, dozens of people berated the commission and promoted debunked conspiracy theories about masks, vaccines and the pandemic. Some, however, also shared emotional stories of the toll the last year has taken as they have lost jobs or businesses as a result of the pandemic-related shutdown last year. 

Small business owner Ben Cucio pleaded with commissioners not to close businesses again.

“People are not going to make any money and they’re not going to make any semblance of a reality having to face another shutdown,” Cucio said. “My business survived, but barely.”

Commissioners, in response, made clear they have no desire to close businesses.

“I don't think that anybody up here, including the health district, wants to shut down anything because that was hard for everybody,” Commission Chair Marilyn Kirkpatrick said.  “We're trying to figure out what are some things that we can do short term to slow it down.”

While cases are rising in many counties across the state, Clark County has borne the brunt of this recent surge, which experts attribute to its high population density and low vaccination rate as the highly transmissible Delta variant continues to spread. As of Tuesday, only 38 percent of Clark County residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, compared to nearly 50 percent in Carson City, which leads the state in percentage of fully vaccinated residents.

Commissioners also voted on Tuesday to require businesses to post signage letting customers know about the health district’s indoor mask recommendation, though Commissioner Ross Miller said the county will have to take further action if people don’t start taking the recommendation seriously.

“We don't want to move towards reduction in capacity or face the consequences of other jurisdictions imposing restrictions on Las Vegas and see our economy shut down,” Miller said. “The public should have a very clear understanding that if they're not getting vaccinated, if they're not wearing masks — even though it's voluntary now, if they’re out in grocery stores and the places that the health district has identified — if the public is not inviting by those voluntary recommendations, this will have consequences.”

Beyond the mask mandate, the county commission voted to require large businesses, including casinos, malls and grocery stores, to submit plans to the county’s business department by Monday detailing how they plan to protect employees and customers. The decision comes against a backdrop of rising concern among those in the gaming industry that conventions may cancel if they believe not enough is being done to address the spread of cases in the county and as officials in some other states, including those in Los Angeles County, have advised against travel to Nevada. 

Nevada Resort Association President Virginia Valentine voiced support for the indoor employee mask mandate during the public comment portion of the Tuesday meeting.

“Whatever you decide today, we ask that you provide written guidance and time to operationalize and communicate the requirements so that we can fully prepare and fully comply,” Valentine said.

The Vegas Chamber also voiced support for the mask mandate, with David Dazlich, government affairs director for the chamber, calling masks the “second most effective tool next to vaccinations” in stopping the spread of COVID-19.

“We support a mask mandate to help curb transmission rates until we can up our vaccination rates throughout Clark County and finally relegate COVID-19 to the pages of medical history books next to preventable illnesses like smallpox and polio,” Dazlich said.

Nevada Supreme Court upholds narrow victory in Clark County Commission race

The front of the Nevada Supreme Court Building

The state Supreme Court Thursday upheld a 15-vote victory last November by now-Clark County Commissioner Ross Miller, denying the legal challenge by former Las Vegas City Councilman Stavros Anthony, who was seeking a new election.

Chief Justice James Hardesty wrote the unanimous opinion for the court, disagreeing with Anthony’s attorneys, who argued discrepancies in the voting process met the definition of an election being “prevented.” 

“Because voters had the opportunity to vote in the November 3, 2020, general election and were not prevented from casting their votes for District C, we conclude that the district court properly found that the election was not ‘prevented" under (state law),” Hardesty wrote. “Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the district court.”

Anthony, a Republican, filed for a recount on Dec. 4, three days after the Clark County Commission certified the results of the District C election in spite of 139 ballot discrepancies in the district. Those discrepancies had caused the board to consider a special election, but then it reversed course. 

The recount resulted in 74 new ballots included in the count, which found that former Miller, a Democrat and the former secretary of state, won by 15 votes, more than the 10-vote margin from the original results. Miller was ultimately sworn in as commissioner.

The seat on the commission was open because Commissioner Larry Brown was term-limited.

During oral arguments, Hardesty pointed to the District Court’s decision to stick with an affidavit filed in District Court by Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria, which did not indicate that a fair election was prevented. 

Democrat, former Athletic Commissioner Aguilar jumps in race for secretary of state

Sign in front of the Nevada State Capitol building

Attorney and former state Athletic Commissioner Cisco Aguilar is launching a campaign for secretary of state, the latest candidate to hop in the race to replace term-limited incumbent Barbara Cegavske.

Aguilar, a Democrat, rolled out his campaign on Tuesday touting endorsements from a host of high-profile Democrats and education advocates, including former Secretary of State Ross Miller, Lt. Gov. Kate Marshall, philanthropist Beverly Rogers and tennis legend Andre Agassi. (Aguilar previously worked as general counsel for Agassi’s management company, Agassi Graf.)

In a statement, Aguilar said he wanted to run for the seat to “defend every eligible American’s right to vote,” remove barriers to voter participation and to make elections as transparent as possible to “maintain the public trust.”

“We have an opportunity to become more efficient as a government, reduce bureaucracy, and enhance access to services that are too often out of reach for many Nevadans,” Aguilar said in a statement. “Our recovery as a state is dependent on empowering our small businesses, reaching out to some of the hardest hit communities, and restoring Nevadans’ faith in government.”

Aguilar spent eight years as a member of the state’s Athletic Commission, which oversees and licenses boxing and other unarmed combat. He also is the founding chairman of Cristo Rey St. Viator, a college preparatory high school.

Two Republicans have also announced intentions to run for the statewide office. Sparks City Councilman Kris Dahir announced a bid for the office in February, and former Assemblyman Jim Marchant has also announced plans to run for the seat.

Cegavske, a Republican, won re-election to the office in 2018 over former Democratic Assemblyman Nelson Araujo by a narrow margin, fewer than 6,500 votes out of nearly a million cast. Cegavske was the only Republican candidate to win statewide in the 2018 midterms, but has drawn criticism from many in her own party (including an official censure) for her assertion that no large-scale fraud occurred in the state’s contentious 2020 election.

The office of secretary of state is likely best known for its role in managing and overseeing state elections, but the office is also granted authority over commercial recordings, notaries public and the securities division in the state.

Lawyers argue before Nevada Supreme Court over close Clark County Commission race

The front of the Nevada Supreme Court Building

The state Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday morning in a months-long case over an exceptionally close Clark County Commission race, with lawyers arguing whether discrepancies in the voting process met the definition of an election being “prevented.”  

Las Vegas Councilman Stavros Anthony, a Republican, filed for a recount on Dec. 4, three days after the Clark County Commission certified the results of the District C election in spite of 139 ballot discrepancies in the district. Those discrepancies had caused the board to consider a special election, but then it reversed course. 

The recount resulted in 74 new ballots included in the count, which found that former Secretary of State Ross Miller, a Democrat, won by 15 votes, more than the 10-vote margin from the original results. Miller was ultimately sworn in as commissioner.

In Wednesday’s appeal hearing, Anthony’s attorney, Michael Wall, hewed to the same argument he made at a November lower court hearing, when his request to stop results certification was denied. Mark Hutchison, another Anthony lawyer, said that comments made by Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria showed that an effective election had been “prevented” in the district because of ballot discrepancies.

“As a result [of the discrepancies], I cannot certify that the vote is an accurate representation of the will of the voters in that district,” Gloria said in the affidavit. “In my professional opinion as an election official, it raises a reasonable doubt as to the outcome of the election.”

Hutchison said that these discrepancies entitle Anthony and District C voters to a new election according to NRS 293.465, which says that a new contest is appropriate if “an election is prevented in any precinct or district by reason of the loss or destruction of the ballots intended for that precinct, or any other cause.” 

Chief Justice James Hardesty, however, pointed to the district court’s decision to stick with Gloria’s affidavit, which did not indicate that the election was prevented. 

“What the registrar said, to the logic to the Commission, was he could not certify the election,”  Wall said. “Nothing in the statute says that the registrar has to use the words ‘the election was prevented.’ The registrar used words which indicate, in his opinion, that there is no winner, there is no election that can be certified.”

Ballot discrepancies can occur when voters cast multiple ballots, when check-in numbers at voting sites don’t match up with the number of ballots cast at that site or as a result of various mail-in ballot issues. Gloria previously said that these discrepancies occur in every election.

Bradley Schrager, representing Miller, argued that neither Gloria nor the District Court, in its findings and conclusions, saw this as a “293.465 election.” 

“There was no election prevented here. What there was was statistical anomalies,” he said. “Mr. Anthony has not placed any ballots in question. There is no allegation that any ballot was counted that shouldn't have been. There's no allegation that any ballot wasn't counted that ought to have been. Neither is there any indication of any incident that can be directly linked to harm or prejudice to Mr. Anthony.”

However, Schrager suggested another statute — NRS 293.410 — would fit the case better as it includes instances in which the election board “made errors sufficient to change the results of the election, as to any person who has been declared elect.” 

“That's the terrain that Mr. Anthony ought to have been fighting,” Schrager said. “293.465 is a voter access statute; it is not a candidate protection statute.” 

The Supreme Court did not immediately issue a ruling after arguments.

Freshman Orientation: Senator Carrie Buck

As in sessions past, The Nevada Independent is publishing a series of profiles featuring all the new lawmakers in the state. This is the third installment of more than a dozen. Check back in coming days for additional stories on new legislators' backgrounds, interests and policy positions.

  • Freshman Republican who succeeds Democratic Sen. Joyce Woodhouse (D-Las Vegas).
  • Represents District 5, which includes parts of Henderson and the Las Vegas Valley east of Interstate 15.
  • District 5 leans slightly Democratic (36.9 percent Democratic, 31.8 percent Republican and 24.4 percent nonpartisan in the 2020 election).
  • Buck did not have a primary opponent in the 2020 election.
  • She won a narrow victory over Democrat Kristee Watson in the 2020 general election, with a 329-vote margin out of more than 67,000 votes cast.
  • She will sit on the Education and Legislative Operations and Elections committees.

FAMILY AND EDUCATION

Buck was born and raised in Sioux City, Iowa, and earned her undergraduate degree at Montana State University before moving to Las Vegas to begin her teaching career in the 1990s.

She also achieved a master’s degree in administration and supervision from the University of Phoenix and a doctorate in organizational leadership from NOVA Southeastern University. She is married and has four children.

CAREER

Buck has a long career in education, starting out teaching English language learners at an elementary school in Las Vegas and eventually rising to become principal at C.T. Sewell Elementary School. She then transitioned to a charter school network, the Pinecrest Academy, where she rose to become lead principal and executive director of the network.

She currently serves as the president of the Pinecrest Foundation, a registered nonprofit that helps fund charter school educational initiatives including scholarships for students. 

PROFILE

Carrie Buck’s love of teaching started with her sister.

Growing up in an isolated rural community, Buck said that after school, she would head home excited to “play school” and teach her sister everything she had learned from school that day (she takes partial credit for her sister ending up in a gifted and talented program).

After graduating from college, she moved to Las Vegas in 1996 to take a teaching job in the Clark County School District. She started as a teacher for nearly three dozen English language learner students, most of whom spoke Spanish but also others who spoke Japanese and Swahili. 

“I remember driving on the I-15 South and seeing the lights for the first time,” Buck, 49, said. “And then I had a little anxiety, because it is a culture shock. Moving from these small little areas to a big city, you just don't know what to expect, but it has been nothing but amazing.”

Buck continued rising up the ranks in the education world until she became principal of C.T. Sewell Elementary in the middle of the 2005-06 school year. At the time, the school was one of the worst-performing elementary schools in the state, but Buck attracted local and national attention in her efforts to turn the school’s fortunes around and eventually earn distinction as a National Title I School.

She left the school in 2014 to become principal of the Pinecrest Academy charter school in Henderson. She left that position in 2019 to become president of the affiliated nonprofit Pinecrest Foundation, which provides scholarships and funding for other programs for the charter school network.

“It's been a great perspective being in a traditional school district, and then moving to a charter school district, and seeing all the ins and outs of school financing, and all of it comes into developing a strong instructional plan that serves kids,” she said.

Her interest in politics started back when she was still principal at Sewell, saying she initially contacted former Assembly Republican Leader Paul Anderson about possibly running for an Assembly seat. But instead, she opted for a run for a state Senate seat in the 2016 election and lost a close race to incumbent Joyce Woodhouse (D-Las Vegas) by fewer than 500 votes.

Buck also made headlines in 2017 when she was put forward as a potential candidate during a series of recall efforts targeting Democratic state senators, including Woodhouse. The recall efforts ultimately failed, and Buck later privately apologized for her role in the process.

Buck ran again for the same seat in 2020, this time narrowly defeating Democrat and political newcomer Kristee Watson by 329 votes out of more than 67,500 cast in the district (Woodhouse was prevented by term limits for running again).

Buck is one of four freshmen in the Senate, and the only Republican elected in a competitive district. She said she hoped to put her head down and focus on passing her priority bills, but wasn’t concerned if her proposals were held up or blocked for overtly political reasons. 

“I learned by (watching) what happens to others,” she said. “And so when leaders treat others poorly or unprofessionally or lock it out as they have in the past, that's just what is expected,” “So there may be a little anxiety about that but I'm a big girl, I signed up for this, and I'm willing to take whatever...comes my way. I can handle it.”

State Senator Carrie Buck on the fourth day of the 81st session of the Legislature in Carson City on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

ON THE ISSUES 

COVID vaccines

Buck said she doesn’t plan to immediately get a COVID-19 vaccine, and disclosed that she and her husband, who works for the Henderson Police Department, both had the illness in December.

She said her symptoms were like a mild flu, but acknowledged that it “can hit anyone differently, so you just don’t know.” While she doesn’t have any reservations or concerns about the vaccine, she said that she would prefer to wait until more people in the general public begin to receive it.

“I have a lot of between 65- and 70-year-olds that are emailing me wanting the vaccine, so until constituents are vaccinated, I think I can wait,” she said.

Education changes

Unsurprisingly, many of the bills that Buck plans to bring forward in the 2021 session have to do with education.

One “simple fix” she’ll be proposing has to do with making the GPA weights for dual enrollment college courses taken by high school students equal to the higher weights given to Advanced Placement classes. She’s also working on a proposal with fellow Republican Sen. Scott Hammond to provide internships for high school students and dropouts.

She also plans to introduce a bill that would ensure teachers and government employees receive training about their publicly funded retirement system and benefits.

And while it may not be a piece of legislation, she said she also wanted to ensure that no bills are passed that affect the carryover dollars or reserve accounts budgeted by individual school principals — a topic that came up but was abandoned by the Clark County School District during the 2020 policy-focused special session.

“The reason you save money as a school leader is because if the following year you're asked to make a 15 to 20 percent cut, that you can keep your staff because it brings consistency for kids,” she said. “And that's what they need. Your staff doesn't want to have to worry about transferring schools and all this upheaval. They work the best when there is trust and that there's a leader that's going to go to bat for them.”

Taxes

Buck declined to stake a position on the sales and gaming tax initiatives backed by the Clark County Education Association and currently in the Legislature, saying she wants to “see how this plays out.”

Lawmakers have a 40-day clock from the start of the legislative session to take up the measures, or else they’ll head to the 2022 ballot. Democratic leadership in the Legislature have said they don’t plan to support the measure.

As for the trio of proposed constitutional amendments raising taxation rates on mining that passed during the 2020 special session, Buck said she would support “bringing mining into the conversation” but was leaning against what Democratic lawmakers had passed last summer.

“I don't believe in isolating industries to tax them and turning people on each other,” she said. “Because then you never know who's next on the dinner plate.”

ID cards for inmates

Buck also said she’s working on a bill with Republican Sen. Ira Hansen to fix issues with identification cards for former inmates. 

State lawmakers in 2017 passed a law requiring prison officials to verify an inmate’s true name and age with a birth certificate before issuing any identification cards after they’re released from state custody, but prison officials estimated that difficulties in meeting the higher standard meant nearly half of released inmates didn’t have any form of identification when they leave.

Buck said that left former inmates having to wait weeks to get other forms of identification, which makes it harder for them to return to normal society.

“Inmates that have messed up in their life but served their time and are out, we need to get them into the workforce and get them (to be) productive individuals as soon as possible,” she said.

Election integrity

Asked whether she believed that massive amounts of voter fraud caused former President Donald Trump to lose Nevada in the 2020 presidential election — something the president’s campaign has claimed but that has been denied by Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske and in courts around the state — Buck demurred.

“I don't know, I don't know that,” she said. “I mean, I just don't know. I wasn't presented with any evidence. I didn't see for myself any nefarious happenings. So I haven't been briefed on that.”

Buck said she thought election officials should ensure that death records are closely compared to voter files, and noted that several of her Republican colleagues plan to introduce bills related to election procedures and processes, although she said she didn’t think they’d “see the light of day” in a Democrat-controlled Legislature.

She said she was uneasy about the close vote margin and issues with ballots in the Clark County Commission race between Ross Miller and Stavros Anthony, but didn’t outright say that fraud had or had not occurred in any races on the 2020 ballot.

“That's a really tough question because I don't know,” she said. “I do think that there were different things that were happening, but I don't have proof of anything, so I'm not going to be one that's going to be shouting that because I'm not an attorney with proof.”

Updated on Feb. 5, 2021 at 2:46 p.m. to correct that Buck's husband works for the Henderson Police Department, not the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

Clark County Commission swears in Ross Miller as opponent takes challenge to Supreme Court

Clark County Government Center

The Clark County Commission swore in four members on Monday, including one whose race was so close his opponent is disputing the results in the Nevada Supreme Court.

The swearing-in ceremony was held outdoors at the Clark County Government Center amphitheater in downtown Las Vegas. Nevada Supreme Court Justice Abbi Silver swore in Marilyn Kirkpatrick, Ross Miller and Michael Naft, and newly elected North Las Vegas Justice of Peace Belinda Harris swore in William McCurdy II. 

Miller’s oath of office comes after a narrow victory against his Republican opponent, Las Vegas City Councilman Stavros Anthony. In November, Miller was in the lead by 10 votes out of more than 153,000 cast. Anthony filed for a recount that led to election officials including 74 additional ballots that widened Miller’s margin of victory to 15 votes. 

The commission voted to certify the recount’s results on Dec. 15. Anthony’s lawsuit for a new Clark County Commission election was rejected by a judge on Christmas Eve, but Anthony filed a notice on Monday with the Nevada Supreme Court to appeal the District Court’s decision denying his request.

“I am going to Nevada Supreme Court for residents of Clark County Commission District C, where the Register of Voters has called into question whether the election results reflect the true will of the voters. Spread 10, 30, 15 votes. 139 irreconcilable discrepancies and errors,” he tweeted on Dec. 30. 

In November, Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria reported to the commission there were 139 ballot discrepancies in District C. Although this halted the commission’s initial vote to certify the election results, Gloria explained at the Dec. 1 meeting that such discrepancies include instances when the number of the individuals who checked in at the polling location does not match the number of ballots cast, and that it happens every election. 

McCurdy, of District D, replaces Lawrence Weekly, who was termed out. Miller, of District C, replaces Larry Brown, who also was termed out. 

Kirkpatrick has been a District B representative since 2015, and Naft, of District A, was first appointed by Gov. Steve Sisolak in 2019. Commission terms are four years.

Stavros Anthony notice of appeal by Jannelle Calderon on Scribd

Judge rejects request for new Clark County Commission election sought by Stavros Anthony amid narrow loss to Ross Miller

A Clark County judge has denied a lawsuit seeking a new election for a contentious and narrowly decided Clark County Commission seat sought by Republican Stavros Anthony in his narrow 15-vote loss to Democrat Ross Miller.

Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez denied the motion in a brief order on Thursday, writing that she could not apply a state law allowing for new elections owing to the loss or destruction of ballots in this case because “the election was not prevented.”

The order is another legal setback for Anthony, a Las Vegas City Council member who (per initial election results) lost the race for the open District C seat on the commission by just 10 votes out of more than 153,000 cast.

"Judge Gonzalez issued a ruling today, Christmas Eve, so given the holiday and a time for our families, we will get together after Christmas and discuss our options," Anthony said in a statement.

But the narrow margin of victory was quickly challenged after Clark County Registrar Joe Gloria informed members of the county commission that his office had discovered 139 ballot discrepancies in the race, leading the commission to vote to not certify the results of the election and to begin plans for a special election.

Miller’s campaign quickly sued the county, asking a judge to prevent a special election and compel the commission to immediately certify the race results. The commission ultimately reversed itself and moved to reconsider and accept results of the race in early December. A separate legal motion filed by Anthony to halt those proceedings were rejected by Gonzalez in early November.

After the results were certified, Anthony filed for a recount in the race. Results from that process ultimately resulted in 74 new ballots included in the vote totals, and Miller’s margin of victory rising to 15 votes (after accounting for a batch of erroneously included duplicate ballots). The Clark County Commission ultimately voted to affirm the new race results and Miller’s victory on Dec. 15.

Attorneys for Anthony filed a separate motion before Gonzalez on Dec. 10, requesting that the court require the county commission to order a new election in the race owing to the number of unresolved ballot discrepancies.

Attorneys for Miller and the county opposed the motion, writing that Nevada state law requires that the results of a recount be considered final, and that there was no evidence that the 139 discrepancies would modify the final margin in any way.

A representative for Miller's campaign did not immediately return a request for comment on Thursday.

Clark County Commission votes to certify recount results, 15-vote victory for Democrat Ross Miller

The Clark County Commission voted Tuesday to certify the results in the recount for the District C race, which resulted in a 15-vote victory for Democrat Ross Miller.

The final results of the weeklong recount affirmed Miller’s victory over Republican opponent Stavros Anthony. Initial results from the recount released Friday had put Miller’s lead at 30 votes, but officials discovered duplicate ballot batches had been read into the system in error and informed the candidates on Monday of the actual total. As a response to “ever moving” numbers, Anthony’s campaign is looking at legal options to challenge these results.

“Seven additional absentee ballots were included in the vote totals. As a result, one additional vote was tallied for Stavros Anthony, and six additional votes were tallied for Ross Miller,” Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria said during the commission meeting. “The early voting and Election Day vote totals were a complete match to what was read into the system on election night.” 

The recount in the commission race was requested by Anthony after election results were first certified by the county commission in early December. The board had originally elected not to certify results alongside the rest of the election in November as a result of 139 ballot discrepancies which outnumbered Miller’s then 10-vote margin of victory.

The vote to canvass and certify the results of the recount on Tuesday was unanimous despite multiple public commenters asking the board to instead call for a special election.

Jacob Reynolds, an attorney for Anthony’s campaign, spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, saying that “changing” results in the election show the need for a special election. Reynolds also indicated that the campaign plans to sue and has a hearing scheduled before Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez on Friday.

Anthony campaign manager Lisa Mayo-DeRiso previously told The Nevada Independent the campaign was looking at legal options and would be willing to go to the Nevada Supreme Court if necessary.

"Because of this razor thin margin and the inability to accurately call the election, we will continue with the fight for District C voters to have all their votes counted, and the accurate results to be reported," Mayo-DeRiso said in a statement on Tuesday.

She added in the statement that the campaign was "disappointed" by the board's decision and "shocked" that it was made without discussion by the commissioners.

Volunteers who observed the ballot recount on behalf of the Anthony campaign also spoke at the board’s meeting, asking the commission to call for a special election. Wendy Ellis and Joanna Gorman both referenced “irregularities” they say they observed in the adjudicated ballots during the recount process.

“The voting is so important to us, to all registered voters,” Gorman said. “It is important that we have confidence in our voting system, and, right now, with all of the discrepancies that have been noted, it is not [possible] for the voters to have the confidence that we need.”

More than 153,000 ballots were cast in the District C election, with turnout in the district at about 77 percent. Turnout in special elections has historically been much lower. The most recent special election for a Republican primary in 2018 saw only 36 percent turnout.

The Anthony campaign expressed disapproval of the “ever moving number” on Monday, issuing a statement which questioned why commissioners “are not listening to Joe Gloria when he says he cannot call this election.”

Gloria previously said in an affidavit that he “cannot certify that the vote is an accurate representation of the will of the voters in that district.” 

When asked whether a recount would be enough to ensure the vote was accurate to that will, Gloria said that the authority to certify results lies with the commission.

“I don’t know how to answer that … In the canvass, we had to report the discrepancies,” Gloria told The Nevada Independent. “However, we don’t have the authority to certify on our own, so we take direction from the county commission. They directed us to certify, and so we did.”

At the meeting Tuesday, Gloria said that the election department deemed the results certifiable.

The District C recount took five days and cost Anthony, who requested the measure, nearly $80,000. Final results of the recount added seven ballots to the voter total, six going to Miller and one to Anthony. 

Gloria will submit a copy of the votes to the secretary of state’s office based on the recommendation by the commission.

This story was updated at 2:38 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 15 to include a statement from Stavros Anthony's campaign manager Lisa Mayo-DeRiso.

Why Trump’s lawsuit seeking to overturn Nevada’s presidential race sputtered in court

Ten days after major media outlets called Nevada for Joe Biden, attorneys and allies of President Donald Trump’s campaign stood outside state party headquarters in Las Vegas to make a stunning announcement — the campaign had identified enough irregularities to call election results in the state into question and planned to file a lawsuit challenging them in court.

“Donald Trump won the state of Nevada, after you account for the fraud and irregularities that occurred in the election,” campaign attorney Jesse Binnall said on Nov. 17, adding that the Trump campaign was “quite confident in the fact that when the law and the facts are clearly adjudicated in this matter, that it will be very clear that once all the voting happened, once everything occurred, the results were unreliable because of the irregularities and the fraud.”

But the Trump campaign’s eyebrow-raising accounts of voter fraud — tens of thousands of mail ballots sent from out-of-state, vote totals mysteriously changing overnight, and testimony that volunteers in a Biden van were caught filling out blank mail ballots — failed to make any headway in state courts.

The election contest lawsuit, filed the day of the press conference, was summarily rejected by Carson City District Court Judge James Russell, who in an order earlier this month wrote that the campaign had produced evidence with “little to no value,” a far cry from casting enough reasonable doubt on Biden’s 33,596-vote victory over Trump.

An immediate appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court was also rejected last week, with members of the court issuing a unanimous opinion on Tuesday stating that the Trump campaign failed to demonstrate any “error of law, findings of fact not supported by substantial evidence, or an abuse of discretion in the admission or rejection of evidence by the district court” that would provide grounds for a reversal.

That decision marked the end of realistic legal remedies for challenging Nevada’s presidential race results. The campaign could theoretically appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the lawsuit deals specifically with state law and brings no federal claims, making it unlikely the high court would take up the lawsuit.

The defeat was the latest and most high-profile legal loss that befell the Trump campaign in Nevada. A late-summer challenge to the state’s adoption of near-universal mail voting for the 2020 election was defeated in federal court in September; a pre-election challenge to Clark County’s mail ballot counting and processing system failed in state court; and an Election Day challenge to Clark County’s mail ballot system failed before another federal judge

Nationwide, the Trump campaign and Republican Party allies have lost dozens of  post-election lawsuits, including one filed by the state of Texas that was rejected Friday by the U.S. Supreme Court.

With the dust settled, the Trump campaign’s only legal victory in Nevada was petitioning to keep certain in-person polling places in Las Vegas open for a few hours longer on Election Day. 

Nevertheless, the Nevada Republican Party and Trump campaign have continued to push the narrative that massive amounts of voter fraud occurred in the 2020 election — now through publication of select anonymous declarations and data analyses originally filed under seal and ultimately rejected in the campaign’s election contest lawsuit.

Election law experts interviewed by The Nevada Independent said the failures were unsurprising. Nevada’s legal parameters for challenging election results sets a high bar for acceptable evidence, including clear proof that serious error or malfeasance occurred before a court can step in and take action that could change the outcome of an election.

Those experts also said that election contest lawsuits typically deal with razor-thin margins and are only brought after a campaign is able to specifically identify a sufficient number of illegitimate votes that could have affected the outcome of the race — owing to that high bar of evidence. 

The Trump campaign has not publicly released names or identities of the tens of thousands of people who allegedly cast illegitimate votes.

Todd Bice, a prominent Las Vegas attorney and lifelong registered Republican who has argued election cases in the past, said every election cycle sees a small number of irregularities or mistakes, but they typically only come into play when the margin between candidates is small enough for those mistakes to matter.

In the Trump campaign’s case, the campaign failed to show any compelling evidence of mass fraud, he said.

“Trying to say that the system was so flawed that it doesn't matter what the margin is, that requires an extraordinary showing, and they of course made no showing,” he said. “They didn't have a case, they didn't have evidence, and the remedy they were seeking was to simply dislodge the electors chosen by the people.”

How election contests work

Nevada is no stranger to close elections, the most recent and notable being U.S. Senator Harry Reid’s 428-vote victory over John Ensign in 1998. Other nailbiter elections included the 1964 U.S. Senate race, an 84-vote victory by Democrat Howard Cannon over Republican Paul Laxalt, and the 1914 U.S. Senate race, a 40-vote victory by Democrat Francis Newlands over Republican Samuel Platt.

But only two close elections in the state have been overturned after a legal challenge and none more recently than half a century ago — once for a Douglas County state Senate seat in 1878, and in a 1970 Assembly race where a faulty voting booth incorrectly marked votes for the wrong candidate.

Compared to those margins in past statewide races, Biden’s 33,596-vote victory over Trump in 2020 isn’t nearly as close. Bice said that the state’s election contest law is designed to handle “close margin disputes,” not cases where the difference in vote totals differs by tens of thousands.

So what does the state’s election contest law actually say? 

Any candidate or voter for an office, except for the U.S. Senate and House, which are required to go to Congress, can contest the election of any candidate. State law lays out slightly different processes and deciding authorities for general election contests in races for governor, lieutenant governor, legislative races and judges on the state Supreme Court or Court of Appeals.

Filing an election contest lawsuit needs to be done no later than 14 days after an election, or five days after the conclusion of a recount, and can be filed on a variety of grounds, including:

  • An election board, or any of its members, was guilty of “malfeasance”
  • A person elected to an office was not eligible for that office at the time of the election
  • An election board made errors sufficient to change the outcome when conducting the election or canvassing the votes
  • The defendant or an agent gave or offered to give something of value for the purpose of manipulating election results
  • Any malfunction of a voting device, counting machine or computer that would raise “reasonable doubts” as to the outcome of the election
  • Illegal or improper votes were cast and counted, legal and proper votes were not counted, or a combination of both categories occurred in an amount equal or greater than the margin of victory or “in an amount sufficient to raise reasonable doubt as to the outcome of the election.”

In the past decade, there have been only two instances of losing candidates pursuing election contest lawsuits. In one instance, North Las Vegas City Councilman Richard Cherchio challenged the results of a municipal race won by exactly one vote by Wade Wagner in 2011. Election officials later discovered that an illegal ballot had been cast in the latter race, kicking off extended litigation between Cherchio and Wagner that ultimately resulted in Wagner staying in office.

In the other, three Republican Assembly candidates fought the losses of their 2016 primary challenges against three incumbents. 

Daniel Stewart, an election law attorney who represented and defended the incumbents, said that even in close races, a successful election challenge is difficult to prove as it requires extraordinary relief — judicial-mandated changes to race results — and requires evidence, acquired on a very short time-frame, that a substantial number of illicit ballots were cast and benefited the opposing candidate by such a margin as to affect the results of the election.

“It's just very unlikely, and likely to be the result of the loser just not not coming to terms with having lost,” Stewart said.

What Trump’s campaign alleged

In their lawsuit, attorneys for the president’s campaign went further than either of the previous election contest lawsuits, stating in their complaint that they would provide evidence that tens of thousands of illegal votes were cast, some by deceased individuals, some by noncitizens, but mostly by people who live and allegedly also voted in other states.

The complaint also included testimony of alleged illegal activity by Native American groups offering incentives in exchange for votes, a variety of statements from anonymous “whistleblowers” purporting to have seen illegal activity, including the aforementioned Biden van, and alleged deficiencies in Clark County’s poll observation plan. It also recycled complaints from past, unsuccessful lawsuits about Clark County’s use of an Agilis signature verification machine, saying the county was violating state law and opening the door to rampant fraud by allowing for the automatic processing of mail ballots.

The Trump campaign had previously sued and sought a court-ordered halt to use of the machine to process mail ballots. Carson City District Court Judge James Wilson denied the request in early November and said the party “failed to show any error or flaw” in use of the machine to verify mail ballot signatures. A federal judge on Election Day blocked a similar request, announced at a Trump campaign event and later filed by two Republican congressional candidates.

Still, the Trump campaign and state Republican Party continually expressed nothing but confidence in their efforts to successfully challenge the results of the election — touting a procedural step to allow depositions, which one conservative media outlet called a “HUGE COURT WIN,” and bragging that the campaign was prepared to present up to 20 binders with more than 8,000 pages of evidence.

“This is big news,” American Conservative Union chair Matt Schlapp said on Fox News prior to the hearing. “A lot of people in the national media have said, ‘If you have evidence of voter fraud, show it.’ Well, we have thousands and thousands of examples of real people in real-life instances of voter illegality.”

Why the lawsuit fell short

The much-touted evidence, however, failed to persuade Judge James Russell, who ultimately issued an order dismissing the case with prejudice, meaning the parties could not re-file a similar suit using the same claims.

In his order, Russell wrote that many of the anonymous whistleblower declarations constituted unusable hearsay and that, despite an unanswered question of what standard of evidence to apply in the case, he considered the “totality of evidence” provided and found it lacking.

“As reflected herein, the Court finds that the expert testimony provided by Contestants was of little to no value,” he wrote in the order. “The Court did not exclude consideration of this evidence, which it could have, but gave it very little weight.”

Stewart said that Russell’s decision to consider the evidence regardless of procedural defects or a lessened evidentiary standard — reasonable doubt is a higher standard than preponderance of evidence, which the Trump campaign pushed for — spoke volumes as to the lack of merit of the evidence.

“I think the judge is pretty explicit about it. Even under a preponderance of the evidence standard, the claims failed,” he said. “I mean, when you say there's no evidence, you're basically saying that literally under any standard, they lose. They just haven't even made that basic showing to give (the judge) pause.”

The campaign’s lists of alleged illegitimate voters — 42,000 instances of “double voters,” 1,506 apparently dead voters, 19,218 non-Nevada residents and more than 23,000 votes sent to fake, vacant or commercial addresses — also failed to make a strong impression on Russell. It’s unclear whether the campaign provided a list of voters it believed cast illegitimate ballots to the court, as nearly all evidence was filed under seal (the Nevada Republican Party did not return a request for comment). Russell wrote, though, that the evidence provided by the campaign was seriously flawed.

One Trump campaign expert, Michael Baselice, apparently conducted a phone survey of voters who cast mail ballots per court testimony, but Russell wrote that he questioned the “methodology” of that survey as there was no source of data identified, nor any apparent quality control efforts regarding the data received. The testimony of a data analysis expert, Jesse Kamzol, was also discounted by Russell, who wrote that Kamzol “had little to no information about or supervision over the origins of his data, the manner in which it had been matched, and what the rate of false positives was.” 

A third expert provided by the campaign, Scott Gessler, was similarly questioned by Russell as he provided no exhibits or citations for his conclusions, and “based nearly all his opinions on a handful of affidavits that he took no steps to corroborate through independent investigation.”

Stewart, who acknowledged that he hasn’t seen the provided evidence because it was largely filed under seal, said that the arguments made during the hearing gave him the impression that the campaign had no list of individual voters they believed had voted twice. He based that conclusion off a statement in court by an attorney for the Democrats that the Trump campaign hadn’t presented the name of a single person alleged to have cast an illicit ballot, an assertion the Trump campaign didn’t challenge.

He also said an expert report without backup documentation was not enough evidence to prove that enough fraudulent votes had been cast to call the results of the election into question, adding that those expert opinions are “basically approximation” without actual, hard evidence to back it up. Evidence published by the Trump campaign during and after the trial only includes numbers of people they believe cast illegal ballots, not any actual list of suspected fraudulent voters.

“That's the stuff that matters,” he said. “If they've got actual evidence of that, lists of people and names that can be verified, that's what they should be running with. That shouldn't be buried in the middle of the argument ... you can win an election contest with that kind of evidence.”

Matt Griffin, an elections-focused attorney and lobbyist who has represented Democratic Party clients and previously oversaw election administration in the secretary of state’s office, said that election officials in the state see a handful of cases every cycle where a voter tries to test the system or otherwise cast more than one ballot, but that the state had been effective in catching and prosecuting those cases whenever those occur.

“In every election that I'm aware of, there has always been a handful of folks who've tried to double vote,” he said. “And from Ross Miller to Barbara Cegavske, they’ve all been prosecuted. But those numbers have never risen to the point where it would have affected the outcome of an election.”

In the 2020 election, 8 News Now reported that state election officials were investigating two cases of ballots cast in the name of a deceased person and had discovered that six people cast a ballot twice. Other media outlets in the state, including the Las Vegas Review-Journal, reported they have found no evidence of mass, undetected voter fraud in the state’s presidential election.

After the 2000 presidential election, which saw a multitude of issues with Florida’s voting system, Griffin said that improvements funded and required by the Help America Vote Act — such as electronic poll books, substantial paper audits, improved automation and security improvements — minimized the amount of human error that could potentially result in changes to election results.

He said a recount or post-election challenge made more sense in a much closer race, pointing to Ross Miller’s narrow victory over Stavros Anthony for a seat on Clark County Commission, which was subject to a recount last week that ultimately reaffirmed Miller’s victory.

“That race is exactly why we have recounts,” he said. “If you lose by 30,000 votes, there is no light for you, because we run very good elections.”

Editor's Note: Daniel Stewart is a contributing columnist for The Nevada Independent

Recount reaffirms, widens Ross Miller’s narrow victory in Clark County Commission race

Clark County on Friday finished a five-day recount of more than 153,000 ballots that reinforced Democrat Ross Miller’s commission victory, with his lead over Republican Stavros Anthony increasing from 10 votes to 30.

Anthony filed for the recount on Dec. 4, three days after the Clark County Commission certified the results of the District C election in spite of 139 ballot discrepancies in the region that had caused the board to consider a special election. The recount resulted in 74 new ballots included in the count. 

An election department representative says they are looking into documentation to establish the reason for the difference in the ballot counts.

"I’d like to extend my deepest gratitude to the staff and volunteers who worked 18 hour days in the middle of a pandemic to uphold my victory,” Miller said in a statement on Friday. “Now, I’m focused on getting to work speeding our recovery from Covid and assisting my new colleagues in their vital efforts to restore our economy."

The recount increased the number of ballots counted in District C from 153,162 to 153,236. Former Secretary of State Miller’s vote count increased from 76,586 votes to 76,633, and Anthony’s vote count increased as well, shifting from 76,576 to 76,603.

In a statement on Friday, Anthony said that the results are “still unofficial” and that his team will be at the election department warehouse on Saturday to reconcile “where the additional 74 ballots were derived.”

“In addition, we have over 200 adjudicated ballots that need to be reconciled. Our fight in this race is not over,” Anthony said. “We have 139 discrepancies that still exist and this additional fluctuation in ballots, only supports the fact that we need a new election."

On Monday, Anthony’s campaign manager Lisa Mayo-DeRiso said the campaign was looking further into its legal options. The campaign cannot seek a new election, but it can challenge the election results in court. In an election contest, a judge can only remedy irregularities by awarding the seat to a candidate who can prove he or she “received the greater number of legal votes” or annulling the election, leaving the seat open.

The recount cost Las Vegas City Councilman Anthony a nearly $80,000 deposit to help fund the staffing and costs of operating the election department warehouse needed for the recount to occur. That deposit also went towards the county bringing in a representative of Dominion Voting Systems, the vendor that supplies Clark County’s voting machines, to consult on any issues.

If the county determines the ultimate cost of the recount was less than the initial deposit, Anthony will be partially refunded.