Were All Of MIneral County's Votes Counted?

By  | 

HAWTHORNE, NV - The votes were cast and counted almost three months ago. Winning candidates were sworn in and are now serving in office, but in Mineral County a nagging question has emerged.

Were all the votes counted? If not, why? And, if a true count changes the outcome in a race, what next?

At the moment there are no good answers, just plenty of troubling questions.

Stewart Handte went to bed election night believing he'd just lost his job as Mineral County Sheriff, losing by just 75 votes. His opponent was duly certified by local election officials and now holds the office.

But now the question he and others here are asking is: did he really lose?

"I just want the truth," he says. "Regardless if it changes the results the people need to have the complete facts."

At the moment it appears more votes were cast than were counted.

More than 14 hundred voters went to the Mineral County polls last fall. It turns out as many as 172 of those votes may not have been counted.

According to the Mineral County Independent News, which broke the story, sources say the votes on the electronic cartridge and paper record from one of the county's machines used during early voting may not have been part of the election night count.

They were instead found much later in the bottom of a desk drawer in the Clerk Treasurer's office.

Those records are now in a vault in the clerk's office while the district attorney and the secretary of state's office try to figure out what happened and why.

"Was this an error or was this intentional? says Mineral County District Attorney Sean Rowe who was brought into the case by the new Clerk Treasurer, Lorraine Haight. "If there is any intentionality obviously this becomes a criminal matter."

The case is all the more puzzling for the fact that the results were duly posted, passed through the canvassing process and certified by the county commission. Everyone signed off without anyone apparently raising a question about them.

Margins of 75 in the Sheriff's race and 88 in the Clerk Treasurer's race are perhaps unlikely to be overturned in a recount, but the Assessor's race was decided by just 14.

The man who came in second in that race would like to know if he really lost, but says there's a greater issue at stake in finding out what happened and why.

"The number one concern is voter confidence," says Kevin Chisum,. "Do you have confidence that your vote is going to be counted?"

Our efforts to contact the outgoing Clerk Treasurer, Cherrie George, were unsuccessful.

Even if that question of how and why is answered, the next is even more difficult. If a true count changes any results, what now?

The results all passed the required legal procedures. The window for official challenges has long passed.

Officials have been sworn in and are serving in their offices.

As far as we've been able to determine, there's no immediate recourse in Nevada law for this situation and the results may have to stand, no matter what.