A bumble here, a stumble there, but Lyon County Commission confirms one-plus-one equals two.
By now, we are all familiar with President Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the reality of his defeat at the polls, and the fact that he has lost in court at every turn. But we might not know how that’s been playing out on the local level.
Take Lyon County—where I live. Our elected officials are all Republicans, which reflects their party’s standing with voters. They skew toward the extreme because our closed primary system weeds out any moderate candidates. But now that the Republican Party has transformed itself into the Party of Trump, the term “extremist” has become quaintly irrelevant.
When Barry Goldwater said, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice,” he was making a principled, political statement—the result of applying his philosophy to the world as he saw it. The Party of Trump has no philosophy, let alone principles. They have only Trump and his Word—which is that the 2020 election was a fraud.
This presents a problem, which we saw play out at the Lyon County Commission meeting on November 13. As state law requires, the Commission met “to canvass the vote” from the November 3 election. “Canvass,” from the dictionary, means “to examine or discuss in detail; to look over carefully.” The “vote” was submitted as a report from the County Clerk, and consisted of her office’s tallies for the various candidates—local, state, and national.
In other words, the purpose of the meeting was to approve the results of the election. Incidentally, the law allows the commission to note any clerical errors, and then take any resulting changes into account “so that the result declared represents the true vote cast.” (I’ll explore this unremarkable assumption later.) Once approved, the Clerk then forwards the report to the Secretary of State, where it is added to the counts from the rest of the state.
Our five County Commissioners dutifully count themselves among Trump’s loyal followers, which put them in the unenviable position of approving the county’s contribution to an election which they had to believe was a fraud. Nevermind the fact that Republicans won Lyon County, or that not the slightest hint of impropriety was raised about the vote.
The task wasn’t made any easier when Dr. Robin Titus, who is the Nevada State Asssemblywoman representing the southern half of the county, and the Republican leader in the Assembly, submitted a letter with the astonishing suggestion that when the Commission accepted the County Clerk’s report, they “put on public record that you are not voting that the report is accurate.”
This fell on fertile ground, as later on in the discussion two different Commissioners concluded that, “saying that whether or not it’s accurate or not accurate is not our job,” and “you know, it’s not our job to certify that it’s accurate.”
Fortunately, this absurdity hit a brick wall in the person of Nikki Bryan, Lyon County Clerk. In response to the Assemblywoman’s request, Ms. Bryan said, “I know that Dr. Titus wants you to note that the report is not accurate, but the report is accurate.” Period.
She was then interrupted by one of the commissioners, who also happens to be a vocal social media purveyor of President Trump’s “fraud” scenario. In a deft mix of mansplaining and gas-lighting, he said, “Nikki . . . that’s not at all what Dr. Titus has said.”
Ms. Bryan again quoted the letter, repeating the Assemblywoman’s words: “I respectfully request that when you vote to accept the report you put on the public record you are not voting that the report is accurate.”
Ms. Bryan went on to say she did not care how the Commissioners worded their final motion, but “I don’t think that it’s right to put it on the record that the report is not accurate.” The same commissioner interrupted once more, repeating his head-scratching revelation that what the Assemblywoman said in her letter was not what she said.
Eventually, Ms. Bryan—not to mention the voters of Lyon County—prevailed. “Accuracy” conveniently disappeared, and was nowhere to be seen in the final motion for approval. The Commissioners deflected the discussion off into a self-serving defense of the County Clerk against any criticism—there was none—of the job she and her staff had done.
The Commissioners fell short of officially enlisting Lyon County in President Trump’s election fantasy. But in their own minds, they gave it the old college try.
One commissioner actually voted against the resolution, speciously claiming he had not had time to fully examine the Clerk’s report. The minutes, if not the final product, dutifully recorded their novel understanding that their approval of the report carried no endorsement of its accuracy. They also added a reference to a resolution passed during the summer ostensibly raising the alarm about mail-in voting, but actually only asking for a defense of in-person voting, which was never at issue.
No one had the heart, or the orneriness, to point out that here in non-alternative reality when government bodies officially approve reports that count things they are presumed to be accurate. That goes without saying. Otherwise, what’s the point of even talking about them, let alone approving them?
In her own way, and on our own small stage, Ms. Bryan joined the many Republican election officials who stood up for our democracy during this election. Time will tell what a debt we owe them.
As for the others in the room, it’s bad enough to make a fool of yourself as an elected official, to believe up is down and down is up, to play along, to sell your constituents on the President’s demand: “Who you gonna believe, me or your own two eyes.”
What’s unforgivable is thinking you can make your voters into fools too.
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Erich Obermayr is an author, community activist, and career archaeologist specializing in sharing historical and archaeological research with the public. He works, and observes the world, from Silver City, Nevada, with his wife.
The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of the Sierra Nevada Ally. Our newsroom remains entirely independent of our opinion page. Published opinions further public conversation to fulfill our civic responsibility to challenge authority, act independently of corporate or political influence, and invite dissent.