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The Nevada Independent

Controversial recount halted in Reno City Council race

Records show the candidate withdrew her recount request and then changed her mind, but officials said once a withdrawal occurs, it’s final.
Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller

On the third day of a ballot recount of three contested Washoe County elections, representatives of the Washoe County Registrar of Voters said it had halted the recount of Reno City Council’s Ward 1 race.

Progressive activist Lily Baran had requested the recount after she placed 15 votes behind Frank Perez, the second-place vote-getter. Far-right activist Robert Beadles paid for the recount, which cost more than $50,000. In nonpartisan Reno City Council races, candidates with the top two vote totals advance to the general election.

Records from the Reno City Clerk’s office showed Baran’s recount ended because she emailed the Reno City Clerk at 4:07 p.m. on June 30, the day the retabulation began, asking to withdraw her request.

But at 6:49 a.m. the following day, Baran sent another email saying she had changed her mind.

“I think it’s too late to do this please disregard,” Baran wrote in the message.

Before receiving Baran’s initial message, City of Reno officials said they sent an email confirming the withdrawal request to her attorney. After receiving Baran’s second message asking to move forward with the recount, officials cited the Nevada Administrative Code, which states that once a withdrawal request is made, it is irrevocable. 

“Unfortunately, given the plain language in the regulation, the City’s hands are tied, and I do not have the legal authority to make an exception, waive or vary the regulation,” Reno City Clerk Mikki Huntsman wrote in letter to Baran. “Accordingly, the City cannot comply with your July 1st request to continue, complete and canvass the recount.”

In an interview with The Nevada Independent, Baran said she accepted Beadles’ offer to pay the city for a recount, despite not agreeing with “anything” the prominent Republican donor stands for. Beadles has claimed the 2020 election was stolen, railed against COVID restrictions and vaccines and repeated racist narratives about Black communities.

Baran said she requested the withdrawal because she was in a “panic.” She said people were telling her that because Beadles paid the city for the recount it might be considered an illegal campaign donation and she would go to jail. 

Lily Baran, a candidate for Reno City Council Ward 1, poses for a portrait on June 5, 2024, in Reno. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

When her attorney, who is also representing the two other candidates who requested recounts, assured her the payments wouldn’t cause legal problems, and didn’t receive a notice from the city about the status of the recount, she said she changed her mind and asked for the recount to continue. 

“The process is extremely unclear,” Baran said, noting that she had asked for guidance from the city in the email about what she was supposed to do and never received any. 

In a race with such a razor-thin margin of 15 votes, Baran said she’d heard from residents of her ward that their ballots weren’t cured in time for the election, and she just wanted to make sure all the votes were counted.

“This could have been avoided,” Baran said. “The county could have just done a recount, without shouldering me with the burden of being threatened and called a conspiracy theorist and an election denier and all of these other things, and causing my family and myself, mental anguish for weeks.”

Under Nevada law, recounts can be requested within three working days of the county or statewide canvass. Any losing candidate can seek a recount, but state law requires they front the cost for the recount and only receive a refund if the recount changes the outcome in their favor. The recount must be conducted in the same manner as the original tabulation and must start within five days of receiving the demand and be completed within five days once it has commenced.

Baran said she decided to accept Beadles’ help after speaking with dozens of people who said it wasn't important where the money came from, emphasizing that it was a payment directly to the city, not to her.

“It doesn't matter where the money came from. If he wanted to buy a homeless shelter, I would also be fine with that. If he wanted to buy a bunch of housing from people and pay their rent, I would say, ‘go ahead and do it,’” Baran said. “We've gotten so polarized that it's like certain topics are off limits when they’re legitimate … it doesn't mean that in some cases, like recounts or whatever, aren't actual things that we should be doing in a representative democracy.”

Beadles also paid for recounts for Washoe County Commission District 4 hopeful Mark Lawson, who lost by 18.4 percentage points against Clara Andriola in the Republican primary, and Paul White, who ran for the Washoe County School Board District G trustee seat and lost by almost 6 percentage points. Beadles paid more than $150,000 for the three recounts. 

Those recounts are ongoing. The results will be canvassed by Washoe County commissioners July 9.


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