The voice of all Mineral County voters may not have been heard on Election Day 2014, after it was discovered that 176 ballots may not have been counted after being cast in an early voting machine.
Mineral County had already been flagged for a discrepancy by the Nevada Secretary of State and the Nevada Supreme Court for being off four votes in the November general election count.
Three local races could be affected where the margin of voters was close.
The closest race was that of Mineral County Assessor between incumbent Dorothy Fowler (680 votes) and Kevin Chisum (666 votes); and there was an 88 vote difference in the clerk/treasurer race between current residing Clerk/Treasurer Lorraine Haight (735 votes) and Chris Nepper (647 votes). The most talked about and debated race, that of Mineral County Sheriff had only 75 votes between current sitting Sheriff Randall “Randy” Adams (727) and Stewart Handte, who had been appointed in December of 2013 (652).
A release was issued by Mineral County District Attorney Sean Rowe on Monday, Jan. 26 after the story was broken by the Independent-News that two rolls onto which the ballots had been cast were found in a locked bottom drawer of former Mineral County Clerk/Treasurer Cherrie George.
The rolls, labeled one of two and two of two, were not located within the vault, but in the bottom drawer of the desk located in the office of Lorraine Haight according to a source. Along with the cartridges used in the voting machine process.
George was contacted by the Independent-News but declined comment without her counsel present.
In the canvassing paperwork submitted to the Mineral County Board of Commissioner’s for approval on Nov. 12, it shows on page 72 that machine 32734 had zero votes counted for all races and questions on the ballot.
The number of voters who turned cast an absentee ballot per the canvassing paperwork submitted to the commissioners was 206 yet the number on the Secretary of State website www.silverstateelection.com shows a different number with only 30 absentee ballots cast.
The statement from Rowe reads as follows: “Following the November, 2014, general election, Mineral County Elections officials were contacted by the Nevada Secretary of State’s office notifying them that the results from the election had been flagged by their office for a discrepancy.”
“District Attorney Sean Rowe has initiated an investigation into the discrepancy. “At this time, it appears as though an error occurred which caused some of the votes cast during early voting to not be counted on election night,” Rowe indicated. This discrepancy was discovered by the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office during post election reviews.”
“This investigation is being conducted with the support and assistance of Secretary of State. “We are committed to discovering what occurred, why it occurred, and responding appropriately,” Rowe said. “As this is an ongoing investigation, further details are not available at this time. We will work with the State and others involved in this election process to ensure that the public’s trust in the integrity of the voting process is upheld.”
It should be noted that the Secretary of State’s office are assisting with the District Attorney’s investigation and cannot comment until they have more information on the specifics of the case.
Not only are the candidates who ran for offices questioning the validity of the election, but so are the voters. They want to know if their votes were counted. Voters also want to know if there will be a recount of the “misplaced” ballots or a whole new election.
The question was raised to Rowe, who like he stated above must investigate the incident more before answering those questions. In researching, it should be noted that after the votes have been canvassed by both the board of commissioners and the Nevada Supreme Court, the numbers are final.
But voters and candidates are not happy with that answer. According to NRS 293.465, “Loss or destruction of ballots, or other cause preventing election in precinct or district; new election.” The statute goes on to say that after this is noted the election officers shall make an affidavit setting for the fact of what transpired and submit it to the county commissioners. After receipt of such affidavit, any candidate for any office to be voted on by the registered voters of that precinct or district, the board of county commissioners shall order a new election for that district or precinct.”
This is the first known incident in Mineral County of uncounted ballots. The rolls, as of Monday morning, remained in the vault in the Clerk/Treasurer office.