Newspaper column: Puzzling primary results in congressional race

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.

Reportedly a photo of the elusive Mike Monroe

Reportedly a photo of the elusive Mike Monroe

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.

You may read the column at Ely or Elko.

Candidate Innis calls on secretary of state to investigate unusual results in CD4 race

Shortly after I posted a blog questioning how a candidate who did no campaigning could possibly garner 22 percent of the vote in the GOP primary for Congressional District 4, second place finisher Niger Innis sent out a press release calling for the secretary of state to investigate the outcome.

“Was it computer error? Was it a glitch in the system? We don’t know …” Innis’ press release said. “And believe me, there is a reason out there somewhere. We just have to work together to find it.”

The Review-Journal posted a story in the past few minutes about the unusual outcome — with a remarkable lack of incredulity — along with what might be the first known interview with candidate Mike Monroe.

Perhaps, this goes to show what might happen when the vast majority of registered voters stay home and let the few determine who will represent Nevada in Congress.

Since it does not appear Innis posted the press release online, here is the release in its entirety:

NIGER INNIS FOR CONGRESS CAMPAIGN TO CHALLENGE VOTE RESULTS IN DISTRICT 4 REPUBLICAN PRIMARY

 Las Vegas, NV (June 12, 2014)– Acknowledging that the end result of the June 10th Republican Primary for Congressional District 4, in which Assemblyman Cresent Hardy won, may not change, Niger Innis and his campaign today announced that they are going to call uponSecretary of State Ross Miller to undertake an audit of the election results.

            “At this point in time, Cresent Hardy has won the Republican nomination to face Steven Horsford in the November General

Niger Innis (R-J photo)

Election, and we need to move forward,” Innis said. “However, what is irrefutable is that the vote total for Mr. Monroe is, without a doubt, questionable.”

            “With all due respect to Mr. Monroe, the 22 per cent of the vote he received is simply inconceivable based upon his lack of campaign activities, which quite frankly, were none,” Innis continued. “Let me be clear. I am not claiming I lost the race due to votes for me being counted as votes for Mr. Monroe. Some of his votes could very well have been cast for Mr. Hardy.”

             “Was it computer error? Was it a glitch in the system? We don’t know,” Innis continued. “But I believe until we investigate, until Secretary of State 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.”

            There have been several theories of protest votes against Mr. Hardy and Mr. Innis because of what was perceived as a negative campaign. Innis for Congress Campaign Manager Steve Forsythe discounts those claims.

            “There were two ‘minor’ candidates on this ballot and if roughly 24 per cent of the voters decided to cast a protest vote, it is most likely that the 24 per cent would’ve been divided relatively equally between Mr. Monroe and Mr. Poliak,” Forsythe observed. “If the voters don’t know either candidate, and both of whom have run numerous times before, why would one get over 90 per cent of that protest vote?”

            Forsythe said that the campaign has decided to move ahead not because they believe the overall results will be changed, but because there is an obvious flaw in the voting system in Nevada and the 22 per cent vote for Mr. Monroe was either the result of a computer error or a loophole in the registration/voting process that was taken advantage of.

            “I’m more than a little concerned that there haven’t been alarm bells going off in either the SOS office, the various county election departments or with the media that these results are highly unusual,” Forsythe said. “The predictability and conformity of elections year-to-year lie in the consistency of the process. If you look at all the results from primary election evening, there are no anomalies in any race, except one, CD4. Pretty much across the ballot, ‘minor’ candidates received minor attention and vote totals.”

            “It is such a glaring departure from not just Tuesday night, but when looking back at election results for years, the fact that no one would step forward and say ‘hey, let’s at least take a look at these vote totals for Mr. Monroe’ is very troubling.

            Innis said, “We owe it to the people of Nevada, to the voters in CD4 that supported either Cresent or myself, to take a good, hard look at these results. I know how hard we worked on this campaign and I have a pretty good idea of how hard Cresent worked on this race. To have a candidate receive 22 per cent of the vote when he did no campaigning at all – no signs, no mail, no grassroots, no walk teams, no phone  banks, no advertising, no social media, basically nothing at all – raises major questions.”

            While Innis has acknowledged that Mr. Hardy is the winner from Tuesday’s election, Forsythe said that will not change the campaign team’s commitment to move forward with requests for an investigation at the various levels of government, as well as conducting their own independent investigation.

            “Niger has graciously accepted the results of the primary election,” Forsythe said. “However, we as a team, will do everything in our power to try to come to some conclusion as to how Mr. Monroe received 5,392 votes.

            “We have been contacted by our supporters throughout the district and they have urged us to investigate this matter,” Forsythe said. “The fact that Mr. Hardy and Mr. Innis both worked so hard in the rurals, yet Mr. Monroe won White Pine and Esmeralda counties, beat Mr. Hardy in Lincoln and finished a strong third in Nye and Lyon counties has to give pause to the thought that something just isn’t right about this election.”

Can anyone explain the election anomaly in Congressional District 4’s Republican primary?

Reportedly a photo of the elusive Mike Monroe

Reportedly a photo of the elusive Mike Monroe

In more than four decades of covering elections across four different states, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything quite like the results Tuesday evening in the Republican primary for Congressional District 4.

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 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 writer Chuck Muth dismissed it as

“How is that possible?

“Because those folks weren’t voting for Monroe.  They were voting against both Hardy and Innis.  And since there was no ‘None of the Above’ option on the ballot, since this was not a statewide race, the Monroe vote was 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, garner only 2 percent? Poliak got 523 votes to Monroe’s 5,392.

A Review-Journal story noted:

“Innis also said he planned to ask Secretary of State Ross Miller to investigate the candidacy of Mike Monroe, a Republican contender who finished third behind Innis with more than one-fifth of the vote. Innis questioned whether Monroe had filed all the proper papers to run, including campaign disclosure documents.Although Monroe didn’t campaign heavily or debate, he has run for Congress twice before, giving him greater name recognition with some voters.”

Name recognition?

In 2010 a Michael A. Monroe ran as a Republican for the Congressional District 1 seat and picked up less than 2 percent of the vote. In 2006 a Michael “Ace” Monroe ran for the same seat and got just more than 10 percent of the vote.

Name recognition?

CD1 is entirely within Clark County. So, please explain how Monroe won, yes, won in White Pine and Esmeralda counties. He was two votes shy of Innis in Lyon County, finishing third. He had more votes than Hardy in Mineral County, second place.

A White Pine County source said he was told that a number of Democrats switched to Republican registration just before the primary.

But why? With Horsford’s huge Democrat base in Clark County, neither Hardy or Innis had much of a chance. It was a senseless and futile gesture, if it was an Operation Chaos affair.

I doubt any sports book oddsmaker could calculate the odds of something like this. They are, to say the least, astronomical.

GOP primary results

GOP primary results