CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) – The pace of counting votes in Nevada is being criticized for taking too long and it has even become food for jokes online. But government officials say they are emphasizing speed accuracy over a year as it takes longer to process an unprecedented large number of mailed ballots in an extended deadline.
“We told everyone early on that the results would take at least ten days,” US Secretary of State Jennifer A. Russell said in an email.
The legislature passed the bill in August to send to all active voters to vote by mail in the hope of limiting, or at least not promoting, the spread of the coronavirus. People with postmark before Election Day may be counted if they arrive in the elections office within seven days, ie Tuesday. And they keep coming, even though the number of arrivals per day is expected to decrease gradually.
“It̵7;s been another year for us,” said Deanna Spikula, a voter registration firm in Washoe County, the state’s second largest county that includes Reno. “Volume is definitely something we haven’t seen before in the state about the receipt and processing of mail ballots.”
WHERE WE STAND
The Associated Press has not declared a winner in the state. More than 1.2 million votes were tally counted on Friday afternoon, with Joe Biden ahead of President Donald Trump with 20,137 votes – a gap of about 1.6 points. About 87% of the estimated votes have been tallyed, but tens of thousands of votes have yet to be counted statewide.
The majority of the undelivered ballots are in Clark County, including Las Vegas and its populated surrounding suburbs. Clark County Registrar Joe Gloria said Friday that unpaid votes are broken down into categories, each requiring multiple-step verification to ensure election integrity.
Michelle Johnson, a professional singer and longtime Las Vegas resident, said she was disappointed with the state’s slow vote count.
“This is Nevada. You’d think in this state we’ll be good at math and good at counting numbers, ”Johnson said. “I think we’ll have more progress because all the other technologies are going on in our city.”
Most untold ballots arrive by mail and are first processed through a signature verifier. The election officer checks the signature by himself and is not verified by the machine. Then a review will be made to ensure the total processed votes match the number of votes received. Once verified, those votes will be counted.
As of Thursday, an additional 44,000 ballots required ID verification and another 2,100 had signature matching problems. The registry contacts voters in both groups to verify their voting eligibility, which again takes time.
Gloria said he expected the majority of the remaining votes to be counted on Sunday. The Legislature gave election officials until November 12 to finish counting votes, and Gloria said the staff planned to work until then to resolve the ballot issues.
In Washoe County, the registry says it has no backlog or other problems with counting votes. Along with the tallying of ballots by mail when they arrived, the county had about 5,100 provisional and same-day ballots that needed to be counted. About 1,800 others have a signature problem, which the agency is trying to deal with with voters.
Mail ballots are taking longer to process, but “we didn’t have any problems, we didn’t have any delays,” said Bethany Drysdale spokesman, spokeswoman Bethany Drysdale.
“As much as people want an answer right now, we won’t have that answer until every ballot has been counted,” she added.
Sam Metz is a corps member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Reported for America is a not-for-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover obscured issues. Blood reported from Los Angeles. AP’s cinematographer, Haven Daley in Las Vegas, contributed.