John Locher / AP
Monday, Nov. 22, 2021 | 2 a.m.
Days after the 2020 election, local businessman Donald Kirk Hartle told an interviewer on KLAS-TV news that he was stunned to discover that someone had voted under the name of his deceased wife, Rosemarie.
“That is pretty sickening to me, to be honest with you,” Hartle, a Republican voter, said by virtual link. “It was disbelief. It made no sense to me, but it lent some credence to what you’ve been hearing in the media about these possibilities, and now it makes me wonder: How pervasive is this?”
He was lying to advance a larger lie.
On Monday, Hartle appeared on another virtual link, this time with a very different message. He admitted to a judge that he had voted with his late wife’s ballot as well as his own, and that he accepted “full responsibility for my actions and regret them.”
With that, Hartle pleaded guilty to voting twice, a felony offense.
Nevada voters should remember this case the next time they fill out their own ballots. More specifically, they should remember that in the days after the election, the Nevada Republican Party cited Rosemarie Hartle’s ballot in support of its false claims of widescale voter fraud committed by Democrats.
The outcome of Hartle’s case proves, at best, that the state GOP was willing to use a completely uncorroborated report of a single fraudulent vote to accuse Democrats of widescale fraud and then try to overturn Nevadans’ votes.
In fact, it was an all-Republican scam.
Hartle, an employee of a dominant Republican donor and Trump supporter, committed felony voter fraud. He then lied about it to the public, promoted the lie in the media and state’s GOP leadership, knowingly or unknowingly, took voter fraud committed by a member of their own party and used it to accuse the Democrats of fraud.
We’re at the point in this country when any claim by Republicans has to be viewed with enormous suspicion. That’s a pity. Ethical members of the Republican Party have lost their political home as their party finds endless new ways to debase itself.
At worst, it raises questions about whether the GOP was playing political footsie.
Hartle’s guilty plea puts another nail in the coffin of the Big Lie. As shown in state after state, instances of voter fraud were few, and Republicans were often responsible for what little illegal balloting took place.
Going into the 2022 election, it’s also well worth pointing out that when fraud does occur in Nevada, it’s detected, investigated and prosecuted.
In other words, our elections are clean. Period.
Hartle faced up to four years in prison and a fine of as much as $5,000 for what he did.
The 55-year-old was granted a year probation, however, under a plea deal in which he can plead to a misdemeanor if he fulfills the requirements of his probation term.
Clark County District Judge Carli Kierny, who accepted Hartle’s plea, made it clear she did so reluctantly and would have preferred a stiffer penalty.
“I’m going to follow the negotiation that your attorney has worked out for you, but I will say that in this case, this isn’t something that ultimately I first wanted to do,” she said.
Kierny described Hartle’s action as a “cheap political stunt.”
It must be said that Hartle’s crime was more than a cheap stunt, it was dangerous considering it was designed so that the GOP could run with it.
This was a party that was looking for any angle to subvert the will of Nevada voters and deliver the state to then-President Donald Trump. It claimed that Rosemarie Hartle was one example of several cases of voting by dead people, not to mention others who should have been removed from the state voter rolls because of relocations.
Adam Laxalt, the former Nevada attorney general who is now seeking election to the U.S. Senate, was a key player in this assault on democracy. As Trump’s Nevada counterpart to Rudy Giuliani, he worked side by side with individuals using Hartle’s case as a weapon to attack the legitimacy of the vote. Laxalt followed up by filing a string of junk lawsuits, which were thrown out like the litter they were.
The Sun asked Laxalt for a comment on the outcome of Hartle’s case. We’re still waiting for an answer days later.
Unless he denounces the case, Nevadans should remember that he was complicit in using Hartle’s felonious lie to advance GOP demagoguery in trying to deceive Nevadans with Trump’s Big Lie.
Nor is Laxalt the only Republican candidate who owes Nevadans answers on their stances on voter fraud.
Many of the leading candidates for governor — former Sen. Dean Heller, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo and North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee — have played footsie on the issue by refusing to directly answer several simple questions such as: Is Joe Biden the legitimately elected president of the United States? Was the vote in Nevada fair and accurate? Did they support the state GOP’s censure of Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske — a stalwart Republican — for her oversight of the vote?
Cegavske oversaw a clean vote and her party censured her for defending democracy. No leading Republican candidate will defend her. Let that sink in.
Nevadans need to know that the leaders who want to serve them will protect their access to the vote, will guard the voting system from subversion based on fabrications of fraud, and will work to ensure that Nevadans’ votes count.
Hartle’s guilty plea reveals bare truths about the Big Lie. Voters should keep it in mind when judging which candidates will best serve their interests.