In more than four decades of covering elections across four different states, half of those in Nevada, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything quite like the results this past week in the Republican primary for Congressional District 4, which covers the southern half of rural Nevada and a chunk of Clark County, where most of the district’s voters reside.
Yes, Crescent Hardy won the right to advance to the general election against incumbent Steven Horsford, capturing nearly 43 percent of the votes cast, besting Niger Innis’ 33 percent. But — as reported in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times and the Elko Daily Free Press — how to explain how Mike Monroe picked up 22 percent of the votes cast?
Monroe is a cipher. He did not campaign. He raised and apparently spent no money. He did not debate. He did not go door to door. He gave no media interviews. Few have even seen a photo of him.
Conservative pundit Chuck Muth dismissed it as just a protest vote, since voters did not have a choice of “None of these candidates” as they do in statewide races. He called the Monroe vote “a ‘pox on both your houses’ vote, not a vote for an unknown candidate.”
But if so, why did Monroe get 22 percent of the vote, while Carlos Poliak, who at least submitted his photo and information about himself to the press, garnered only 2 percent? Poliak got 523 votes to Monroe’s 5,392.
Liberal pundits scoffed at the very notion anything possibly be wrong with the ballot count.
But Roger Johnston, head of the Vulnerability Assessment Team at Argonne National Laboratory, reports electronic voting machines can be easily hacked by someone with a $26 remote control device and knowledge of high school science.
Blogger Brad Friedman remarks, “The voting machine still used across the Silver State — the horrible, hackable, failure-prone Sequoia AVC Edge touch-screen voting machines with VeriVote “paper trail” printer add-on — has a storied history.”
Might fraud or even a bug in the software explain why Monroe won the race in White Pine and Esmeralda counties. He had only two votes fewer than Innis in Lyon County. He had more votes than Hardy in Mineral County.
Innis concedes he lost the primary to Hardy, but said he plans to ask the secretary of state, the office in charge of election integrity, to audit the returns.
“Was it computer error? Was it a glitch in the system? We don’t know,” Innis said in a press release. “But I believe until we investigate, until Secretary of State (Ross) Miller investigates, we won’t know the reason for Mr. Monroe getting 22 per cent of the vote. And believe me, there is a reason out there somewhere. We just have to work together to find it.”
Or is this what happens when less than 20 percent of the state’s voters bother to go to the polls? Actually, in White Pine County approximately 40 percent of registered Republicans voted and 33 percent of Esmeralda Republicans turned out — yet Monroe won both.
Nevadans have made some odd election picks before, but this is most curious. Be careful who you cast a protest vote for, because you might have to live with him as your congressman for two years. And be sure and read the printout on your voting machine.