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Nearly 80 officials overseeing elections in 7 swing states doubt 2020 results

Reno — Washoe County, Nevada, is a battleground county in a critical state and could hold the keys to congressional elections, and potentially the presidency. But in this cycle, one of the most consequential races in the state is for county commissioner.

That commissioner would cast the tie-breaking vote on a panel that — among other responsibilities — oversees elections in Washoe. Members appoint the county’s top election official, establish the election budget, and ultimately certify statewide election results.

“It’s important to realize that we’re in a national election, that the national election is happening at the local level,” Democratic Secretary of State Francisco Aguilar said in an interview. “And at that local level, they can completely block elections at the state level, for the state and for the nation.”

At a time when the electoral process has come under withering attack from former President Donald Trump and his rowdy MAGA supporters, election control has become a target for his allies in places like the Washoe County, despite the continued lack of evidence of broad voter turnout. fraud in Washoe or any other county in the United States

A new CBS News investigation found that nearly 80 officials working in election monitoring positions in seven battleground states, including Nevada, do not believe the results of the 2020 election, have refused to certify the election and publicly supported the measures taken. January 6, 2021, during the US Capitol riots or pushed election conspiracies.

In Washoe, the commission’s power attracted the attention of a powerful and wealthy right-wing activist named Robert Beadles, who falsely claimed the 2020 election was rigged. Since 2022, he has pushed for controversial voting changes introduced by other commissioners, which include the elimination of voting machines in favor of hand counting paper ballots and the presence of the National Guard in voting machines. polling stations – measures that the ACLU called “categorically illegal.”

Beadles, who says he made his fortune in real estate and cryptocurrency, has spent big money in local elections for school boards, city council and the state legislature. He also spent more than $100,000 on commission races, including supporting two of the five current commissioners, Jeannie Herman and Michael Clark, both of whom encouraged election conspiracies or denied that Joe Biden won the election. This cycle, he aims to build a majority within the commission to promote his agenda.

“We have our two superheroes on the county commission. We have Mike Clark and Jeanne Herman.” » Beadles said in a video posted to his Facebook. “However, these two votes are not enough. We need three.”

“If you want to save a county, you save the county commission, because they’re the ones with the voice that can fix or break the county,” Beadles told CBS News at a local Republican event he animated. “People look at the president and the Senate and all those guys and that’s great, but that one person can’t necessarily make a difference. As much as one person on the county commission or city council can, they could influence the entire board of directors.

In his quest for one more vote on the county commission, Beadles targeted fellow Republican and current commissioner Clara Andriola for defeat in the upcoming June primary. Andriola held the line against Beadles’ proposed voting changes — which contributed to his censure by the Washoe County GOP — where Beadles serves on the executive committee. This committee also passed a resolution in 2022 asserting that President Biden was not legitimately elected.

“It was disappointing. It was hurtful … but I’m a Republican, I’m still a Republican and I will vote as a Republican,” Andriola said of the censure. When asked how she thought the election was going in Washoe, Andriola told CBS News. “I think the election went as well as we could.”

But for Beadles, Andriola is not Republican enough. Instead, he is supporting several other Republican candidates, including Andriola’s primary opponent, Republican Tracey Hilton-Thomas. In an interview with CBS during a campaign stop, Hilton-Thomas says she is working closely with Beadles and the current Republican commissioner to draft new election resolutions.

“I believe there is interference in our elections,” Hilton-Thomas said. When asked if she believed the results of the 2020 election, she replied: “I would have to say right now, no, I don’t believe in the results…they won’t show us, they won’t show us the proof . we just have to trust their word. And I’m not the type to trust people’s words. »

Beadles continued to peddle false claims about election fraud. In 2022, he told the Washoe County Commission that “the election is rigged…it’s treason, you’re all committing treason.” He directed much of his anger over the election at County Registrar Deanna Spikula, who later resigned from her post after facing a wave of harassment. Beadles has denied any responsibility for the harassment of Spikula or other officials.

Beadles sued to try to block the Election Worker Protection Act, which makes it a crime to harass, threaten or intimidate election workers. The suit was twice dismissed in Federal Court, but Beadles filed another appeal earlier this month. A public affairs official for Washoe County commissions said there has been 100% turnover of election officials in that office since 2020.

The Reno activist was promoted by Steve Bannonformer senior advisor to Donald Trump.

“They’re really afraid of Trump, but what they should be afraid of is 25 (million) to 100 million little Trump 2.0s going around the country,” Beadles said on Bannon’s “War Room” podcast.

In the June 11 primary, Washoe County voters will decide whether to reject Andriola. And if Beadles can secure one more vote on the commission, his allies will be responsible for certifying elections in the future.

Aguilar, Nevada’s secretary of state, said election deniers “understand the power of a county on a national level…Nevada is a battleground state, we’re going to be part of a small group of states who will determine the next president of the United States. . And when you start breaking down the data into county-by-county information, you start to recognize the power of Washoe. »


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