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Election 2020 | Elections | Legislature

Assembly to review election contest filed by defeated GOP candidate

Clark County Election Department personnel process mail in ballots on Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Nearly five months after the 2020 election, and roughly halfway through the 2021 Legislature, members of the Assembly have appointed a committee to investigate an election contest complaint submitted by a losing Assembly candidate.

Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson (D-Las Vegas) on Monday appointed three lawmakers — Democrats Steve Yeager and Sandra Jauregui and Republican Tom Roberts — to serve on an election contest committee to review a complaint submitted by former Republican Assembly candidate Cheryl Arrington. She lost her bid for an Assembly seat to current office-holder Elaine Marzola (D-Las Vegas) by 1,197 votes, or four percentage points.

The election contest was transmitted from the secretary of state’s office to the Assembly Chief Clerk in late January, but Frierson said Monday that the delay was a result of a miscommunication between parties.

The complaint largely echoes past uncredited allegations of mass voter fraud in the 2020 election, including depositions and exhibits included in past unsuccessful legal challenges to 2020 election contests, as well as several dozen emails and text messages received by Arrington from voters concerned that their vote was not counted.

Arrington filed an election contest lawsuit in Clark County District Court last November, but that case was dismissed because election contests for legislative races have to be filed with the Legislature, not in court.

The secretary of state’s office said it had received another election contest from former state Senate candidate April Becker, but that request was withdrawn in early February.

The procedure for an election contest filed with the Legislature is detailed in the adopted Assembly standing rules. It requires a three-legislator committee to take on a quasi-judicial role and oversee arguments between the contestant and defendant, but first requires that committee to first assess whether the contestant “complied with all requirements to bring and maintain the contest.”

If the committee determines the contest doesn’t meet all of the requirements, it issues a recommendation to the full Assembly that it take no further action on the contest and dismiss it with prejudice — an action that has to be approved by an Assembly majority vote.

Even if the committee determines it does meet the requirements for an election contest, the burden of proof is on the contestant, who has to prove that “sufficient irregularities in the election of such a substantial nature as to establish that the result of the election was changed thereby.” 

No other election contests from the 2020 election were able to meet that bar in court, and it’s extremely unlikely to gain much traction in the Democrat-controlled Assembly.

Yeager, who is chairing the review committee, didn’t respond on Monday afternoon to a text message seeking more details on how the process will play out.

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