After spending months warning of a “rigged election” and predicting darkly that Democrats would vote “many, many times,” Donald Trump’s only Election Day lawsuit alleging voter improprieties so far ended with a whimper.
The Trump campaign filed a suit Tuesday morning against Joe P. Gloria, the registrar of Clark County, Nevada, alleging that he allowed certain polls in mostly Hispanic areas to remain open after closing time on Friday, the last day of early voting in the state. Trump called it evidence of a “rigged system.”
A lawyer for the Trump campaign asked that Gloria be compelled by court order to retain information on the individual poll workers assigned to the polling stations in question, and to separate out any early ballots that were cast Friday evening.
Clark County District Court Judge Gloria Sturman refused on privacy grounds. She explained that Gloria is already statutorily obligated to preserve information about the operation of the polling places in question, and that any act of the court would create a risk that individual poll workers and voters would be identified publicly and harassed.
Brian Hardy, a lawyer representing the Trump campaign, dismissed the notion. “There would be no harassment,” he said.
Judge Sturman, who has since become a trending item on Twitter under the hashtag #NevadaJudge, was clearly incredulous.
“How can you tell me that? Have you watched Twitter? Have you watched any cable news show?” she asked. “Why would I order them to make available to you people who work at polls, when it’s not already a public requirement to do so, so those people can be harassed for performing their civic duties?”
“I am not going to expose people doing their civic duty to help their fellow citizens vote … to public attention, ridicule and harassment,” she said, adding that taking any move to sequester ballots so that the Trump campaign could link voters with votes cast “seems to go against the very principle that a vote is secret.”
In the lawsuit, the Trump campaign alleged that a handful of polling places in Clark County were allowed to stay open after closing time and that they processed voters’ ballots that had not been in line at the time that the polls closed. It’s unclear if either is illegal in the state during the early voting period.
Under Nevada state law, the county clerk can keep polls open for as long as necessary to process all voters who were in line before polls closed. The clerk also has full authority to determine when temporary polling places are open during the early voting period only.
“Voting at a temporary branch polling place may be conducted on any one or more days and during any hours within the period for early voting by personal appearance, as determined by the county clerk,” according to Nevada state law 293.3572.
That appears to be different than the Nevada state law that applies on Election Day itself. Under that law, reflecting the standard in all states, people can vote so long as they were in line at the time that the poll was scheduled to close. A Nevada state elections official did not immediate return calls requesting clarification.
During the hearing Tuesday, Judge Sturman attempted to disambiguate the law before the court.
“If you were in line when the polls close, you get the chance to cast your ballot, but there has to be an end of the line … but you need to be in line by a certain time?” she asked.
“If a line still still exists, you can cast a vote,” a lawyer representing the county replied. “It’s different from Election Day and always has been.”
Neither Gloria nor any other official in Clark County has filed a formal complaint with the Nevada Secretary of State, Barbara Cegavske, a Republican who was elected in 2014, who is responsible for pursuing an investigation if she identifies wrong doing.
Officials with the Republican National Committee seemed to intimate Tuesday that Gloria, the county clerk, was masterminding widespread illegal activity, although they produced no evidence. “Even more concerning is that Clark County employees seem to be facilitating illegal activity, at the direction of Joe Gloria, whose primary function is to ensure the integrity of elections in Clark County,” they said in a statement.
Dan Kulin, a spokesperson for the county, told reporters that the county had not extended the hours of any polling place.