Mineral County commissioners were pelted with questions at the Feb. 18 meeting when citizens asked “Was my vote counted in the 2014 General Election?”
The agenda item was agendized by Stewart Handte, the former Mineral County Sheriff who lost the election by 75 votes.
An open letter had previously been read into record by Mineral County Clerk Lorraine Haight from former County Commissioner James Essenpreis who was concerned about the appointment of Cherrie George as director of Mineral County Care and Share after an investigation was implemented by Mineral County District Attorney Sean Rowe as to missing votes cast on an early voting machine.
Chris Nepper, who had ran for the office of Mineral County Clerk-Treasurer, read a letter from Handte, Kevin Chisum and himself regarding the outcome of the election after the incident with missing votes came to light.
Referring to the incident as “electoral fraud”, Nepper went through the process as first broke by the Independent-News on Feb. 8. He stated that to date no one from the District Attorney’s office or Nevada Secretary of State has officially questioned anyone involved in the voter process. It was questioned if there was even an investigation being conducted.
The letter asked, “After stating these facts, the three of us [Handte, Chisum and Nepper] are coming to the board of commissioners today to want you, the Mineral County Board of Commissioners, to direct your legal counsel to formally request the Nevada Attorney General’s Office to come here and initiate an unbiased, independent, outside law enforcement agency investigation involving the crime of electoral fraud to restore, at the very minimum, the integrity of the electoral system and bring those to justice who committed the crime.”
“In conclusion, there are roads that the three of us do not want to travel to incur legal costs to those of this fair county due to the strained economic status that plagues us all here – quite simply put, legal costs add up quickly and those costs would ultimately be the responsibility of the tax paying citizens of Mineral County, however, should we not receive proper treatment and justice served with what has been outlined in this statement, we are prepared to take whatever measures necessary to right this wrong. We never thought that we would have to pay for a fair election. America’s Patriotic Home – also the right for your vote to count,” Nepper concluded.
Taking public comment, Mike Henry from Walker Lake started off, “…it makes every voter in this county feel like their vote didn’t count. No reason to vote if they are going to have the election the way they want to.” He asked the commissioners, “Is this the first time or has it happened in the past? We don’t know.”
Continuing his line of questioning, Henry asked, “Who is investigating?”
Rowe answered he and his offices are working with the Secretary of State office and other law enforcement agencies in the state.
Henry continued, “When will we know?”
“As soon as possible,” Rowe said. “Significant mistakes, that Mr. Nepper read to you and the board, however, I can tell you my commitment to you to ensuring that the public knows what happened, why it happened and how, but however, to get to that point – requires investigation. You understand that these are electronic voting systems. You have a paper trail receipt on them and I’m grateful for that because without that I’d have a whole lot less certainty of what those results are from the electronic machines. However, those are sealed as a matter of law and Nevada Revised Statute is fairly vague on how to access those. I’m working with the Secretary of State office.”
He continued, “They are not ‘disinterested’ in the outcome of this race. They are not disinterested in getting the cleansing light of transparency show into what’s going on here. However, we have to ascertain what the facts are…you don’t predetermine the facts. You don’t assume what he facts are and so when you are dealing with electronic material it is difficult.”
Rowe went on to say that he had known about the incident less than a month, having been notified on Jan. 20 that it had occurred.
Proud to be a voter, Shelia Horton of Walker Lake stood up and spoke, “I came to this country expecting a great county. I became a citizen in 1996. I didn’t have to become a citizen but I wanted to vote. If you want to be involved in any kind of politics, you have to have the right to vote. I feel we were ripped of everything…We want the privilege to vote early, in person. The right to use the ballot. It’s not about filling out a form and sending it in.”
Even though a letter was read into record from the candidates, Chisum decided to add, “I want to emphasize the right of every citizen to vote. It’s our civil liberty. By the people, for the people. Each of you commissioners are sitting here because of votes. If you were in my shoes, you would want answers, too. I deserve to know the rights of my efforts.”
Commissioner Paul MacBeth asked Rowe, “What can we do to make a greater sense of urgency? Can we appeal to the Secretary of State?”
Said Rowe: “Again, there is an ongoing investigation…I am using state resources for parts of the investigation. Those resources are going to be significant but slow in forthcoming. Again, this takes time and I’m asking for patience.”
Not a Mineral County resident, but curious of the voting issues, Shawn Mahan added, “Eyes in Nevada are on Mineral County right now.”
Commissioner Cliff Cichowlaz said, “Whatever the right thing is, we want to do it.”
The accused, George, broke her silence stating, “I have been advised not to make comments. As the one being defamed, I just want you to know I didn’t commit any fraudulent or criminal activity and I would question the district attorney if there is indeed an investigation going on, the one person who can tell officially what happened has not been questioned. Not by our local Mineral County District Attorney nor by the Secretary of State office, so if there is an investigation going on, I have not been officially contacted.”
While speaking, Rowe made a sign to George to stop talking. George has given an exclusive statement to the Independent-News and KOLO8 News which can be seen on page 5.
The Independent-News requested further comment from Rowe, who said he’d issue a press release, but it was never received.
The board made no motions on Handte’s agenda item.