ELKO – Elko County Commissioners cannot order a forensic audit of the primary election, according to a legal opinion that commissioners acknowledged while supporting the Elko County Clerk’s Office’s handling of elections.
“I am 100% confident of Kris Jakeman and how she runs our elections,” said Commissioner Jon Karr.
Commissioners on Aug. 3 agreed to check into a potential audit after hearing public concerns about election validity, accuracy of Dominion voting machines, and proposals to go to all paper balloting, but Chief Civil Deputy District Attorney Rand Greenburg found that “there is no statute or regulation that allows the board to run a forensic audit or to review an election.”
He wrote in his Aug. 10 opinion that the board has the authority, however, to complete a canvas that is limited to “noting clerical errors discovered and counting for changes resulting from the discovery of errors.”
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Greenburg said that while “this may seem like authorization to do a review or audit of the records,” an attorney general opinion indicates that the power is limited to reviewing the certificates of inspectors and clerks to add up the totals of each precinct.
Additionally, he wrote that the commissioners had already approved the canvass, which has been certified and sent to the state, and he stated that courts have the authority to do an in-depth review, rather than commissioners.
Greenburg also said that a statement of contest of an election must be filed within five days after a recount or no later than 14 days after an election if no recount is requested, and citizens seeking a forensic audit didn’t file within that time frame.
Commissioner Rex Steninger said that the memo from Greenburg clearly states that “we have no avenue for an audit of the primary election,” but he said that “our duty is to gauge public opinion,” and the majority of those he has talked to about elections don’t trust them.
“We need to find a way to restore faith in our elections or our county residents aren’t going to be voting anymore, and that would hurt us big time,” Steninger said, suggesting there might be a way to keep a closer eye on the Dominion voting machines that the county uses.
“In my mind, logic tells me that those machines can be tampered with,” he said.
Becky Plunkett of the county clerk’s office said Dominion provides the program for the machines after receiving election ballot information and then the county clerk staff inserts encrypted thumb drives into the machines and the ballots are sealed into the machines.
She also said the Dominion machines are not connected to the internet, despite allegations to the contrary, reiterating what Elko County Clerk Kris Jakeman has asserted.
Additionally, Plunkett said that four voting machines are randomly tested before each election, and the clerk’s office plans to have observers for that process for the November election.
Although Greenburg’s opinion related to the June 14 primary, public comments on Sept. 7 extended beyond worries about the past election in the county, with Mary Ann Weldin of Spring Creek reporting that a circulating letter now has the signatures of 600 people who “don’t trust Elko County voting.”
She alleged there were “bloated voter rolls,” but Karr said the county goes through the voter rolls and if there is a case found where “Joe Bob died five years ago” but still voted, legal action would follow.
Commissioner Cliff Eklund asked Plunkett how often voter rolls are updated, and she said “we are removing deceased people every day,” as well as the names of people who move as information comes in from the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office.
She also said county clerks in Nevada compare information after elections to weed out double voting.
Commissioner Wilde Brough said there have been “no prosecutions yet” in the presidential election in which Donald Trump lost to Joseph Biden, and he said that while he would have liked Trump to be president, he said that from the U.S Supreme Court and down the line, there is no evidence of fraud.
“I have to look at it as a county commissioner. I have to give it the bigger picture,” he said.
Brough also said he didn’t believe Elko County elections were a problem.
Matt McCarty, a school trustee and on the board of the Elko Convention & Visitors Authority, said in public comment that he has “yet to find evidence of Dominion machines being tampered with. Yes, there is a lot of conjecture. … I’d like to see frankly someone credible bring the information before us.”
He said Dominion “puts a lot on the line for its business,” so the company would want voting machines that have voting integrity, and he told commissioners he believes going to paper ballots is a “disastrous idea.”
Vernon Hatch, who initially had pushed for the election audit, said from the audience he questioned whether as a constitutional county, Elko County did have the authority to order an audit, and urged commissioners to restore voter confidence in Elko County.
“I would like to see us get rid of the machines, period,” he said. “You folks really trust the voting machines, and we folks don’t.”
Chairman Delmo Andreozzi said election confidence is a big civic issue, and he cited the fact that with 26,319 registered voters in the county for the primary, only roughly 8,080 voted in the primary, and of that number, more than 50% voted with mail-in ballots.
He called the voter turnout “pretty dismal.”
Andreozzi also said that if people are worried, they should pressure state officials to be sure elections are “fully transparent.”