Things just got even more interesting in Nevada’s neck-and-neck Senate race. The dust-up is over the appearance of the “Tea Party of Nevada” name on thousands of ballots and voting machines.
There has been wide speculation that Tea Party of Nevada candidate Scott Ashjian could siphon enough votes from Sharron Angle to thwart her chances of beating Harry Reid. The possibility of an Ashjian upset is very real because Angle and Reid are polling within the margin of error and in polls Ashjian has pulled between one and seven percent of the vote.
The Ashjian factor has lately become even more of a concern for Republicans because Ashjian’s name identification is up — in part because his recent meeting with Angle made national headlines — and also because his name will be right under Angle’s on the alphabetical ballot with the words “tea party” right there next to his name.
But apparently tens of thousands of ballots along with the hundreds of voting machine screens will show the abbreviation “TPN” rather than the words “Tea Party of Nevada” next to Ashjian’s name.
That fact could make a huge difference in how many votes he pulls, and Ashjian is not a happy camper. He told the Las Vegas Review Journal earlier this week that upon receiving his ballot in the mail, he noted [his objection to] the abbreviation.
In a strongly worded letter to the secretary of state’s office, Ashjian called it “wholly unfair” and alleged that “several county clerks have unlawfully abbreviated the name of my political party in an obvious attempt to mitigate the impact of the tea party.”
Secretary of State Ross Miller told Battle ‘10 there is no conspiracy among the county clerks to thwart Ashjian. Miller said both Clark and Washoe, the two most populous counties in the state, typically choose to abbreviate the names of political parties on their ballots, while the other 15 counties usually spell them out.
“How the ballots are stylized is within the discretion of the county clerks,” said Miller. “In any case, it is too late to change them now. Over one hundred thousand ballots have been printed and sent out, and many of them have already been returned.”
Here is the Clark County ballot to which Ashjian objects:
Could the appearance of this ballot change the outcome of the race?
Yesterday, Public Policy Polling (PPP) blogged about a new poll showing Harry Reid beating Sharron Angle by two percent (47-45). Four percent went to either Tea Party of Nevada candidate Scott Ashjian or “none of these candidates” and the other four percent went to other third parties or were undecided.
Near the end of the story about the survey, PPP concludes that “stories about the combination of Tea Party candidate Scott Ashjian and ‘none of the above’ on the Nevada ballot may be one of the most overplayed political stories of 2010. Each is getting only 2% on our poll.”
But if Reid really is up by two percent and Ashjian and “none” are pulling a combined total of four percent, it stands to reason the two categories are a key factor in the outcome of the race. Most if not all of Ashjian’s votes would likely go to Angle were he not on the ballot, and Angle would also attract at least some of the “none” votes were that not an option.
In a race that is so close, the Ashjian factor could potentially either hand the race to Reid or tip the scales in Angle’s favor.
With the letters “TPN” instead of the words “Tea Party” to identify Ashjian on ballots and voting machines, Angle’s chances just got a little better.