Little change in Nevada Assembly race recount
November 19, 2002
Initial results of a recount that began Monday showed no change in an Assembly race that Democrat Debbie Smith of Sparks lost to Republican Don Gustavson by just 31 votes.
Washoe County election officials ran a machine count in four precincts picked by Smith, and Gustavson appeared to gain another vote. But a hand count showed each getting one more vote — and that left Gustavson with the same 31-vote victory margin.
A machine count of remaining precincts was scheduled for Tuesday. A hand count wasn’t required, since the difference between the Nov. 5 count and Monday’s count in the four precincts was less than 1 percent of the vote total.
Smith and Gustavson, both incumbent Assembly members, faced one another as a result of remapping in the Reno area’s Assembly District 30. Gustavson, who represented District 32 prior to reapportionment, wound up with 4,627 votes to Smith’s 4,596 votes on election night.
Smith said factors that prompted her to seek a recount, at a cost of $5,134, included incorrect marking of “a large number of votes.” Those votes had to be hand-duplicated by a special board the night of the election.
Also, Smith said there was “a dramatic difference in the results” that showed her with a 51-vote lead with 98 percent of all precincts reporting and the final report that showed her behind by 31 votes.
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Gustavson said he was confident the initial vote count was done accurately. He added the dramatic change late in the voting was due to Republicans who brought in their absentee ballots on Nov. 5. Those votes were counted last.
The race was one of several that Democrats lost Nov. 5 — reducing their 27-15 voting margin in the Assembly to 23-19. It was the closest of any of the 53 legislative contests decided Nov. 5.
While Assembly Democrats were left with a weaker grip, the Senate remained the same with a 12-9 Republican edge on election night.
Republicans increased to a 13-8 margin last week when Sen. Ray Shaffer, a lifelong Democrat from North Las Vegas, switched his registration to the GOP.
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