LAS VEGAS — With allegations flying three weeks before Election Day, top state election officials and federal authorities in Nevada said Tuesday they’re watching, listening and committed to ensuring a fraud-free vote on Nov. 8.
Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske told reporters she’s heard fears about voting insecurity in the presidential battleground state, but the Republican state official in charge of elections and the FBI chief and federal prosecutor in Las Vegas declared the voting system secure.
“The bottom line that all Nevadans should know on election day? Your vote is safe,” said Aaron Rouse, the FBI special agent in charge in Nevada.
Cegavske called voting one of the most fundamental rights in a democracy, and said a broad group dubbed the 2016 Election Task Force has been meeting for 15 months to ensure that voting would be “transparent, accessible and secure for all Nevadans.”
She acknowledged Republican candidate Donald Trump’s recent comments about rigged elections and voter irregularities nationwide, but insisted that her news conference wasn’t timed as a direct response.
“Everything that everyone’s been concerned about, that’s why we’re here today,” Cegavske said at a state office building in Las Vegas. “We want to make sure people feel safe and secure in voting.”
Officials in other states have been more pointed:
— In Iowa, Secretary of State Paul Pate assured voters Monday that the election wasn’t rigged. Pate, a Republican, said Trump’s claims of voter fraud were confusing voters.
— In Pennsylvania, where Trump called Philadelphia a city to watch, Democratic members of the U.S. House, state Senate and city council, and members of two election watchdog groups defended how the city handles elections. They said Trump’s claims were meant to disrupt voting and discourage minorities from going to the polls.
Trump’s supporters appear to share his concerns. A poll last month by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found half of those with a favorable opinion of Trump expressed little to no confidence in the integrity of the vote.
Nevada uses touch-screen polls with paper printouts that voters can review before casting ballots, and Rouse said that since adopting the system in 2004 audits have never found a faulty vote.
The FBI official said that because polls are decentralized and aren’t connected with the internet, hacking would be virtually impossible.
He and the U.S. attorney for Nevada, Daniel Bogden, said federal officials will be in Las Vegas, Reno, Carson City and Elko monitoring reports from poll-watchers and media about possible irregularities.
Cegavske noted that the major parties deploy poll-watchers to precincts, and said state and federal representatives would also monitor voting.
Bogden said federal law bans intimidating or bribing voters, buying or selling votes, impersonating a voter, altering vote tallies, stuffing ballot boxes and “marking ballots for voters against their wishes or without their input.”
He said questioning, challenging, photographing or videotaping voters at polling places “under the pretext that these are actions to uncover illegal voting” may also violate federal voting rights laws.