Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012 | 3:44 p.m.
Secretary of State Ross Miller called a special conference Saturday to address swirling speculations about voter fraud and voting machine errors, hoping to dispel concerns that recent events might compromise the election.
“I know tensions are high and emotions are running high with these elections,” Miller said, standing at the end of a warehouse filled with voting machines in the Clark County Elections Office in North Las Vegas. “The suggestion that somebody somehow would be able to coordinate or orchestrate a conspiracy across Nevada ... is absolutely ridiculous.
“I suggest that common sense would tell people that’s not possible without people finding out."
Concerns about the accuracy of the voting process kicked into high gear at the end of this week, when the Republican National Committee sent a strongly worded letter to Miller’s office and election officials in five other states, citing concerns with the accuracy of the voting machines and demanding that they be recalibrated.
That was Thursday. On Friday, federal agents, working from an investigation that originated in Miller’s office, arrested a woman accused of trying to vote twice.
The incidents are unrelated and, Miller stressed, fully under control.
“We take all these allegations very seriously ... upholding the integrity of the electoral process is our highest mission,” Miller said.
But they aren’t completely isolated.
Miller said that since the RNC delivered its letter to his office, election officials have received nine formal complaints about nonfunctioning machines, six of them in Clark County.
Before the letter, they had received no complaints, Miller said. And in no case, he added, had voters complaining of problems with the process not ultimately been able to cast a vote for the candidate they chose.
“None of these individuals have indicated that they cast a vote for someone they didn’t intend to. In every instance, they were able to correct their vote,” Miller said.
Miller, Larry Lomax of Clark County and Joe Gloria, who directs programming and maintenance for Clark County’s elections division, demonstrated to gathered media and campaign officials how the Sequoia voting machines were designed to offer voters a chance to correct their vote even if something did go wrong.
They performed the demonstration on the same machines that allegedly had been in error.
“We contacted the individuals who complained ... escorted them back to the polling location and had them attempt to identify the machine that they voted on,” Miller said.
Gloria then detailed what could go wrong. Someone could bump into a machine. Or more commonly, they could be having problems with the touchscreen.
“People inadvertently touch with the palm of their index finger and if they have long nails, they make a double touch,” he said. “When that happens more than once in a course of a day, that makes the machine out of calibration.”
Poll workers are trained how to recalibrate machines, Gloria said, if there are complaints of errors that required voters to correct their ballot. But of the more than 400,000 ballots that had been cast in Clark County, voters availed themselves of those safeguards fewer than 200 times, he said.
“There hasn’t been one instance in Clark County when we had to make a machine repair because of the reading that comes from a calibration,” Gloria said.
“These machines are calibrated a couple of times a day,” Miller added.
Daily recalibration — an action already undertaken in Nevada — is one of the remedies requested by the RNC.
“That’s all we were asking for, and we’re happy that he’s doing that,” said RNC Nevada spokesman Darren Littell. “The RNC’s definitely not alleging a conspiracy theory. The secretary of state has done everything we’ve asked, and we’re thrilled.”
Miller shrugged off the heightened concerns as par for the course.
“We’ve been through these rumors before,” he said. “We’re not ever going to be able to dispel all of these rumors, just the same way you can’t prove that Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster don’t exist and Elvis isn’t walking around someplace.”
But while he played down concerns about voter fraud, Milller indicated that there may be more problems with voter fraud than the public is aware of.
“We have other cases under investigation,” Miller said, adding that there was “more than one” individual other than Roxanne Rubin, arrested Friday, suspected of trying to manipulate the election system. But Miller also said the elections department was “not likely to proceed with them before the election.”
Miller and Lomax offered more details on how the investigation into Rubin’s alleged voter fraud had proceeded, saying that they were alerted to the discrepancy by poll workers who recorded her attempts to vote and took note of her signature and her face and positively identified her as having tried to vote twice.
“The lady went to the first site, and she claimed she wrote her signature differently than she usually writes it,” Lomax said, commenting that Rubin’s red hair made her “a bit memorable” to the poll workers she had spoken with. “She mouthed off that ‘I changed my signature and they don’t even care’ as she left — that also made her more memorable.”
When an irate Rubin was not able to vote at the second polling location, poll workers took a picture of her signature and obtained her phone number so that they could follow up with her, Lomax said.
Lomax indicated it wasn’t the first time poll workers have dealt with such a situation.
“In the course of early voting, it is not all that uncommon to have people show up more than once,” Lomax said, explaining that most of those cases were a result of confusion, either because the person didn’t understand the system or often because some form of Alzheimer’s or dementia made the individual forget they had already voted.
But after comparing Rubin’s signatures and noting her interactions with the poll workers — volunteers from both locations where she tried to vote reported the incident to election officials Monday evening — they were pretty sure she was trying to play the system.
“I think she was trying to prove that voter fraud was easy,” Miller said.