Patricia Degives-Mas of Reno was suspicious when a woman knocked on her door the evening of Oct. 29 to tell her that her Washoe County mail-in ballot had been declared invalid because it lacked her signature.
“I’m sure I signed it the same way I’ve been signing my name for 60 years,” said Degives-Mas, who became even more wary when told that her daughter’s ballot also had been rejected. “We filled them out and signed them under the flap like you are supposed to. When the woman (at the door) said she was from the Democratic Party and not the registrar’s office, I thought this might be some sort of voter-suppression scam.”
In any other election year, Degives-Mas may have sounded paranoid. In 2020, she was merely being prudent. The woman at the door was truthful. The next day, Degives-Mas followed the volunteer’s advice and called the Washoe County Registrar of Voters office. She provided some identifying information. The challenge was removed on Oct. 31. Her vote will be recorded. She said the process was fast and easy.
Data show that more than 1,200 other Washoe County ballots also have been challenged. Nearly all of those ballots await voters’ verification information before they can be counted. This story provides a link (below) for voters to download our simplified database, so that they may check to see if their mail-in/drop-off ballot is among them.
Check your ballot on our site
As a public service, the Reno News & Review is posting a downloadable list of all Washoe County registered voters. Anyone may immediately check whether their mail-in ballot was challenged. The list is public information, but we removed everything but the voters’ names, zip codes and the column indicating whether a ballot has been challenged. The redactions were made to simplify the process and to remove personal information, such as addresses, phone numbers and birth dates. We’ll be regularly updating the list available for downloading for at least a week after the Nov. 3 election.
It will take less than a minute to download and check the status of your ballot. No previous experience with Excel is necessary. Instructions about how to search the Excel file with a couple mouse clicks are below this sample image of what the file looks like:
After downloading the Excel file from the link, below, open it and click on the (circled) “find and replace” button in the upper right of the page. A search box will appear. Type your last name in the box, then go up to the headings on top of the list and click the first column, marked “A,” which is the last name column (it will then be highlighted). Then click on the “Find next” button in the search box. Keep clicking through until you reach your name. Then look to the right in the “G” column, which is where a challenge, if any, will be noted. If it’s blank, you’re OK. If not, call the Washoe registrar’s office at (775) 328-3670 to provide identification information to “cure” your ballot. An explanation of the notations of types of challenges listed in the “G” column is under the download link, below.
NOTE: If you don't have Excel, you can import the Excel file into Google Sheets, a free program, and then do a search, as explained above, using that program. When using Excel for Mac, you have to use “Search Sheet” up in the top right corner of the screen rather than the find&sort binoculars on your screenshot. Also, be positive you are looking at the "G" column, which is for challenges (ballots that must be verified). If it's blank, you're good. The "F" column next door just shows how you voted, such as MAIL or an abbreviation for an early voting site. If your vote was challenged and you've already called the registrar and provided verification, but there's still a notation in the "G" column, allow for some delay in the public file update process. (They've been a bit busy lately.)
Volunteers alert voters to problems
“To ensure votes are counted, the Nevada Democrats have a robust ballot cure program,” said Nevada State Democratic Party spokesperson Madison Mundy. “If a voter’s ballot is rejected, we contact the voter — either by phone, at their door or text — and provide them with the steps to cure their ballot.”
County registrars may mail notices about challenged ballots within 48 hours of the problem being detected. But with this year’s overwhelming number of mail-in ballots being returned and possible delays in postal deliveries, state Democratic Party officials are making sure that Nevadans registered as Democrats learn of problems as early as possible. As of Oct. 31, more than 1 million Nevadans had already cast their ballots. Of those, 548,599 returned their mail-in ballots, according to data available from the Nevada Secretary of State.
Statewide, more than 7,500 ballots to date were rejected for signature problems. Of those 44.5% were registered Democrats, 24% were Republicans, and 31% were registered with other parties or were unaffiliated voters. The percentages are skewed, but they are in keeping with the ratio of the party affiliation of voters who chose to use the mail-in system. The data show: 46% of the mail-in ballots returned were from registered Democrats; 26% came from Republicans; and 25% were returned by voters registered in other parties or who are listed as “unaffiliated.”
In Washoe County, 1,273 ballots had been flagged as “challenged” as of Oct. 31, according to data from the registrar’s office.
Voters may ‘cure’ ballots by Nov. 12
Under Nevada law, voters whose ballots have been challenged have until Nov. 12 to cure the problem. Degives-Mas knew about the extended deadline, but worried that it may not hold. She noted that deadlines in other states were moved ahead as a result of lawsuits filed by President Donald Trump’s campaign and various state GOP officials.
“I thought the Nevada deadline might also be challenged in court and negated the way that’s happened in some other states,” said Degives-Mas, who got an automated phone call from the registrar’s office on Oct. 31, the day after she called and cured her ballot. The call informed her only that her ballot had been received at the registrar’s office.
“So it looks like the county having trouble keeping up with the volume (of ballots),” said Degives-Mas, who mailed in her ballot Sept. 20. “… I can’t thank the Democratic Party enough for staying on top of this. I’m worried that people might not find out that there is a problem with their ballot until it is too late to fix it.”
Nevada Republican Party officials could not immediately be reached for comment over the Nevada Day weekend. Should those officials respond to the interview request after publication, this story will be updated with their comments.
False claims about mail-in voting
Mundy, the spokesperson for the Nevada Democratic Party, noted the Trump campaign and the Nevada GOP have filed lawsuits to prevent mail-in voting in Nevada.
“They also have attempted to shake confidence in the legitimacy of mail-in ballots and election processes as a whole, especially in Nevada,” she said. “As Nevada Democrats worked to expand voter access through the passage of (the mail-in voting law), Republicans focused their energy on rhetorical attacks and frivolous lawsuits in an attempt to create confusion and skepticism of our election integrity.”
“… And don’t forget, if you look at what they’re doing in Nevada: no signature. You take a look at the signature, and there’s no verification of signature allowed. … But there’s no verification of signatures. So they don’t even know who’s going to sign this. They have literally a clause that you don’t have to verify the signatures — that they don’t have to do it.” – President Donald J. Trump, Aug. 5 at the White House, making a false claim he has repeated many times since.
Nevada Democrats also have launched a voter education and protection program, Mundy said. That includes a multi-lingual hotline, at 888-525-VOTE (8683). She said the hotline assists voters with questions and receives reports on any voting-related issues. Operators are available to speak to voters in English, Spanish, or Tagalog.
A voter’s worries assuaged
Degives-Mas said she also was concerned that many more Democratic voters might have had their mail-in ballots challenged compared to Republicans.
In Washoe County, the latest statistics available from the registrar’s office to date show about 20% more Democrat-affiliated voters had their ballots challenged than did those registered as GOP voters (494, Democrat; 401, Republican; and 378 from voters registered with other parties or as nonpartisan). Nearly all of those listed had problems with signatures.
Statewide, the data show that the nearly twice as many ballots from Democrats were challenged compared to those voters who are registered as Republicans. However, as referenced earlier in this story, nearly twice as many Democrats voted by mail as compared to their GOP counterparts (265,863 Democrats; 143,134 Republicans).
“I’m glad to see that nothing seems to be lopsided (in the challenges),” she said. “That gives me confidence in the way things are being done in Nevada.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated with added information about searching the database and the full 300,000+ name data file will be updated regularly until Nov. 12, which is the deadline for "curing" contested ballots.