LAS VEGAS (BLOOMBERG) - A Las Vegas judge refused to go along with Donald Trump's move to slap a county registrar of voters with a court order to set aside ballots cast by people who spent Friday night at the polls as early voting in the state wound to a close.
"I'm not going to issue any order," Judge Gloria Sturman told the Trump campaign's lawyer in a hearing broadcast live over the Internet. "I'm just not going to do it." Donald Trump sued Clark County registrar of voters Joe Gloria on Monday, claiming a polling station at one market stayed open until 10pm in the hotly contested state. Sturman said in court Tuesday that the campaign had "jumped a step" by coming to her for a court order before taking its concern to county officials.
The challenge may be only the first as Trump supporters have been deployed to keep a close watch on any voting irregularities. Trump has suggested that the results of Tuesday's election might be rigged in favour of Democrat Hillary Clinton. In the final days of the campaign, Democrats won a court order in Ohio barring what they called voter intimidation by Trump's backers, while similar bids have so far been rejected in Nevada, Arizona and New Jersey.
Trump's campaign said in a petition filed on Monday that the polling station should have closed at 8pm that night and that the ballots and voting machines involved should be set aside pending any challenges to the election results. At least three other polling stations in the county, including one on the Las Vegas Strip, stayed open past the official 8pm closing time, according to the lawsuit.
"The registrar's violations were not random and neutral in their effect, but very much appear to have been intentionally coordinated with Democratic activists in order to skew the vote unlawfully in favour of Democratic candidates," the Republican nominee said the complaint.
A lawyer for the county said the early ballots from the four polling sites had already been downloaded and co-mingled with other early ballots and the voting machines were in use for election day. It was also common practice in early voting to let people get in line after the official closing time, unlike on election day when people can't get in line when the polls close.
Also, the county was already obligated to preserve any information, so there was no need for a court order, the lawyer told Sturman.
The judge was particularly concerned about the Trump's campaign request to preserve the names of the poll workers because this would potentially make their identities a public record. "I'm not going to expose people who are doing their civic duty by helping their fellow citizens to vote," the judge said, adding she was was concerned this could lead to "public ridicule, intimidation and harassment".
A Republican poll watcher at the Cardenas Market was told by the head of the polling location that, per instructions of the county registrar, the location would remain open until the market closed at 10pm or longer if there were still people in line to vote. As many as 300 people came in to vote after 8pm, according to the poll watcher. Democratic volunteers were offering food and water to the people waiting in line, according to the complaint.