by Steve Miller
copyright © 1996, Electric Nevada
|Complaints that Clark County Voting Registrar Kathryn Ferguson illegally opened and counted absentee ballots before the fall primary election have been filed with the Nevada Secretary of State's office, Electric Nevada has learned.|
received a couple of written complaints, and we are
moving forward," said Assistant Secretary of State
for Elections Pamela Crowell.
Six months ago Washoe County voting registrar Brad Lawrence resigned amid widespread criticism following illegal opening of several thousand ballots in a spring mail-in presidential primary. In that instance, it was never alleged that Lawrence or his staff actually counted the opened ballots.
Crowell declined to say more about the matter, nor to estimate when the Secretary of State's Office might have a fuller statement.
But from other sources EN learned that at least one of the complaints included a sworn affidavit from a temporary worker employed in Ferguson's office before and after the September 3 primary vote.
"Beginning on Thursday, August 29, 1996," swore the Clark County resident, who asked for anonymity, "I and approximately 17 other citizens were employed by the Clark County Election Department and sworn in as an election board to count the incoming absentee ballots for the September 3rd Primary Election.
"The supervisor was Mr. Bill Pendarvic, who works under Kathryn Ferguson.
"We were instructed to check off each voter by name, verify signatures for validity, remove the ballots from the envelopes and the internal sheaths, and count ballots for three categories: Republican, Democrat and Other Parties. Each day the count sheets, ballots, envelopes, and rejected votes were collected and, I presume, were stored in the Election Department vault, for counting on election day.
"We counted ballots on Thursday, Friday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday."
Electric Nevada contacted the office of registrar Ferguson, but she declined to comment. Instead she referred all questions to Mary Ann Miller, legal counsel to the Clark County Election Department.
Miller said that while she couldn't speak for Ferguson, she could cite the relevant law.
"The Nevada statutes allow the absentee and mail-in ballots to be opened prior to election day in two circumstances," said Miller. "One, if you're using a mechanical voting system and two, if you've appointed an absent ballot counting board. Actually both of those circumstances exist in Clark County."
She specified the supporting law as NRS 295.325, subsections 2 and 3, each of which says voting officials
"shall, upon receipt of each absent
voter's ballot, make a record of the return and check the
signature on the return envelope against the original
signature of the county clerk's register. If the county
or city clerk determines that the absent voter is
entitled to cast his ballot, he shall deposit the ballot
in the proper ballot box..."
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