Nevada county election official in charge of controversial 2022 hand-count plan resigns

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RENO, Nev. (AP) — The top elections official in a rural Nevada county roiled by false claims of widespread election fraud that led to a controversial hand-count in the 2022 midterms is resigning, according to a resignation letter the county received.

The reason for Nye County Clerk Mark Kampf's resignation was not clear. The letter only said he was resigning effective March 31, and a county spokesperson could not confirm on Thursday the reason for his resignation.

Kampf declined to comment when reached over the phone by The Associated Press.

He stepped into the position in the wake of the county commission unanimously voting in support of ditching voting machines as conspiracies of a stolen 2020 election spread. The commission wanted every vote counted by hand, a request that made the county one of the first jurisdictions in the nation to act tangibly on election conspiracies, causing the old county clerk to resign.

Kampf ended up conducting a hand-count, but it looked vastly different than the original plan to make hand-counting the county’s primary method. The county used machines as the primary vote-counting method with a hand-count happening alongside, essentially acting as a test run for future elections. That plan did not appear to gain momentum leading up to 2024.

Perhaps the largest conflict stemming from the hand-count came between Kampf and the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, which had spawned lawsuits, complaints to the secretary of state’s office and a series of Nevada Supreme Court rulings that fundamentally altered Nye County’s plan for its parallel hand-count. The ACLU said hand-counting risked election integrity, proved inefficient and was born out of false election conspiracies.

The hand-count started in late October 2022 when they started counting early ballots, but it was stopped after its second day due to a legal challenge by the ACLU and a subsequent order from the secretary of state's office. The count could not resume until after polls closed.

“As my mom said, if I don’t have anything nice to say, probably don’t say it at all,” Athar Haseebullah, executive director of the ACLU of Nevada, said in an interview after the announcement Thursday. “So I still have nothing nice to say all these years later.”

Kampf was recruited by Jim Marchant, a Republican candidate for secretary of state that year who claimed that every Nevada elected official since 2006 was “installed by the deep state cabal” and led a group of 17 election deniers across the country running mainly for state election offices. Marchant, along with 15 of the remaining 16 Republican coalition members, lost their races as part of a larger rebuke of far-right candidates casting doubt on elections in 2022.

Hand-counting is mostly used in small townships across New England and rural Wisconsin. As of the 2022 midterms, there were 658 jurisdictions in the continental U.S. that relied exclusively on hand-counting, with the vast majority having fewer than 2,000 registered voters, according to data from Verified Voting, a group that tracks voting equipment across states.

The most populous county in the continental U.S. to use only hand-counting was Owyhee County, Idaho, which had 6,315 registered voters as of 2020. Nye County, between Las Vegas and Reno, had over 33,000 total registered voters at the time.

Nevada Democratic Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar, the state's top election official who defeated Marchant, thanked Kampf for running county elections, “which is challenging even under the best of circumstances,” he said in an emailed statement.

“Election officials continue to face intense scrutiny and pressure, even though their work is the foundation of our democracy,” Aguilar said. “I’m grateful to Mr. Kampf for his willingness to work with our office for the success of elections in Nevada.”

Kampf's resignation also continues a trend of turnover among county election officials in Nevada. Eleven of the state's 17 counties have had turnover in top county election positions since the 2020 election, most of which occurred between 2020 and the 2022 midterms, according to an Associated Press tally, which already included Nye County due to the previous clerk's resignation.


Stern is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Follow Stern on X, formerly Twitter: @gabestern326.