A Nevada court judge forcefully denied a request Tuesday from Donald Trump's campaign to direct a county registrar of voters to preserve and segregate ballots from voting machines in four early voting sites in the Las Vegas area where Latino voters showed up in record numbers.
Court throws out Trump's request to separate early voting ballots in Nevada
The Trump campaign said Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria kept polling locations open two hours beyond their designated closing times.
Clark County saw its record for single-day early vote turnout shattered Friday when 57,174 people cast their ballots, according to data from the Nevada secretary of state's office, as Hillary Clinton and Democrats sought to build up a prohibitive advantage over Trump before Tuesday in the key state.
Trump's lawyers asked for an order to have the pertinent early vote ballots -- those cast after the designated polling hours Friday -- not to be "co-mingled or interspersed" with other ballots.
Judge Gloria Sturman, of the District Court for Clark County Nevada, ruled from the bench, saying Gloria was already obligated by state law to maintain the records that the Trump campaign is seeking.
"I can't obligate him to do something he is already obligated to do," Sturman said, later adding, "This is Election Day. He has other things to be doing."
Dan Kulin, a spokesperson for the county, told CNN that no early voting stations extended their closing times. They did, however, process voters who were in line at closing time to allow as many people to vote as possible.
Trump's campaign also sought information about the people who were present at the sites in dispute -- a request Sturman angrily shot down, expressing her frustration with Brian Hardy, a lawyer for the campaign.
"Do you watch Twitter?" she asked. "There are internet trolls who could get this information and harass people who just want to help their fellow citizens vote."
"Why would I order them to make available to you information about people who work at polls when its not already a public requirement to do so. So that those people can be harassed for doing their civic duty?"
She added: "I'm just puzzled how you think you will use this evidence anyway."
Donald F. McGahn II, Trump's campaign attorney, said that the suit was filed to preserve records and that the county attorney made clear in open court that the records would be preserved. McGahn said that ensuring that records are persevered is standard business.
Nevada's six electoral votes may be critical Tuesday night, and the Senate race is key in terms of the balance of power.
Nevada's Republican Party chairman, Michael McDonald, told a Trump audience in Reno on Saturday that polling locations were kept open late so that a "certain group" could vote.
"Last night, in Clark County, they kept a poll open 'til 10 o'clock at night so a certain group could vote," McDonald said in introductory remarks at a Trump rally. "The polls are supposed to close at 7. This was kept open until 10. Yeah, you feel free right now? You think this is a free and easy election? That's why it's important."
At that rally, Trump suggested that the polling location's extended closing time to allow voters to cast their ballots was a sign of a "rigged system" pitted against his campaign.
"It's being reported that certain key Democratic polling locations in Clark County were kept open for hours and hours beyond closing time to bus and bring democratic voters in. Folks, it's a rigged system. It's a rigged system and we're going to beat it. We're going to beat it," Trump said.
"From the polling, it appears that Nevada is so close that the Trump campaign thinks it's worth challenging any violation in voting protocol," said Robert Lang of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "The numbers that came in could represent several thousand people across the four precincts, which could determine who wins the electoral college vote or change the Senate race.
Steve Vladeck, CNN legal analyist and professor at the University of Texas Law School, questioned what Trump's campaign got as a result of the suit.
"The real question is whether the Trump campaign truly wanted an order from the district court, or whether the point was simply to begin to make a record around which the result in Nevada might be challenged after the fact," Vladeck said. "If the former, it failed miserably. If the latter, it seems like a lot of wasted effort if, as the court ruled, state law already required all of this information to be preserved."
Hillary Clinton's campaign praised the judge's ruling.
"We're pleased the judge swiftly denied what was a frivolous attempt to disenfranchise voters in Clark County and a desperate response to the record turnout we're seeing in Nevada and across the country. Every voice needs to be heard in this election and both campaigns should be working to ensure that every American will have easy access to the ballot box," said Clinton campaign spokesman Glen Caplin.