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December 19, 2014

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ELECTION 2008:

State: No false or stifled votes here

Election chief’s probe turns up no fraud, debunking allegations

The dead voted.

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The same person voted in two counties.

A voter got ballots under both her maiden and married names.

The allegations are the stuff of election nightmares. But, it turns out, none of it happened.

Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller said he heard persistent complaints about voter fraud and voter suppression while campaigning two years ago. When he took office in 2007, he began checking voting records for the 2002, 2004 and 2006 elections.

Thirteen suspicious votes turned up in state election records, indicating people had seemingly voted twice or had voted after they died.

Yet upon further investigation, officials found that there was no willful violation of state election law, according to the memo concluding the probe released Tuesday.

In an election year tradition, Democrats are alleging Republicans are suppressing voter turnout to sway the outcome, while Republicans counter that Democrats have fraudulent voters casting ballots.

It turns out little has happened in Nevada in recent years to support either allegation.

“We conducted a comprehensive review, and found no evidence of it,” said Miller, a Democrat.

“To the extent there are violations of election law, whether it’s fraud or voter suppression, we deal with those complaints appropriately.”

Still, scrutiny will be particularly intense this year because of Nevada’s status as a battleground state in the presidential race. Democrats and Republicans say they will dispatch hundreds of lawyers to Nevada to deal with any Election Day issues and file legal challenges if they suspect irregularities.

Miller said his office has set up an Election Integrity Task Force — a partnership among the secretary of state, Nevada attorney general, U.S. attorney general and local law enforcement — to address complaints of voter fraud and voter suppression on Election Day.

So far, the secretary of state has received 77 complaints during early voting, including complaints of endless campaign phone calls and automated calls in which Democratic nominee Barack Obama is referred to as a terrorist.

Though some of those cases are under investigation, voter fraud is uncommon.

In one case, a man, unidentified in the report, voted after he died. But a closer examination revealed the man had mailed in his absentee ballot and died before the county election clerk received it.

In several cases, voters had changed their names because of marriage or divorce and filed new registration forms with county elections departments. Clerical errors resulted in a number of the forms being added as separate voter registration forms, according to the investigation.

“On no occasion did a single elector cast ballots under two different names,” according to the report by Colin Haynes, a criminal investigator with the secretary of state’s office.

In another case, a citizen registered to vote in one county, and then, years later, moved and registered to vote in another county. The person, according to records, appeared to have voted twice.

A review of election records found another voter had inadvertently signed the signature line for the voter who had allegedly voted twice, according to the investigation.

In another case, a voter had asked two counties for an absentee ballot. The voter told the investigator with the secretary of state’s office that he had called the first county and told them he was no longer a resident.

“He was instructed to write ‘void’ across the ballot and return it without completing it,” according to the report. The voter said he complied and voted using only the ballot from the county where he lived.

The contents of the two ballots couldn’t be verified, because both counties say they keep ballots for only 22 months.

By no means does the secretary of state’s investigation prove that no election fraud exists in Nevada.

Gary Horrocks tried to rig his 2002 bid for the Assembly by registering patrons at a bar he operated in Las Vegas. Horrocks and his wife, Pamela, pleaded guilty this year to conspiring to violate election laws.

The case was omitted from the secretary of state’s investigation because it was being prosecuted, Miller said.

Also, this month the secretary of state and attorney general’s offices raided the Las Vegas office of ACORN after catching fraudulent voter registration forms handed in by the group. Election officials have assured the public that none of the bogus forms will result in a fraudulent vote being cast.

“We have the tools in place to detect these things,” he said. “There are not many cases as a result.”

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