Harry Reid, Sharron Angle Campaign Gets (Even) Nastier

Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle, left, speaks as moderator Mitch Fox, center, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid listen during a televised Nevada Senate debateThursday, Oct. 14, 2010, in Las Vegas. AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

AP / CBS

Political operatives in Nevada have begun making accusations of voter fraud and intimidation in the state's hotly contested Senate race, setting up the potential for a dramatic showdown over the results.

An attorney for the Nevada Republican Party on Tuesday alerted the Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller to a handful of "discrepancies" in early voting, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports, as well as complaints from Republican poll watchers who say they are having trouble examining voting records they say should be readily available.

State and county voting officials said there was no evidence of any misconduct, according to the Review-Journal. An election watchdog group told the newspaper that the discrepancies could be the result of human error or glitches in electronic balloting.

The campaign for the Democratic incumbent, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, put out a statement Tuesday calling the complaints from the right "a despicable voter suppression and intimidation campaign." Reid's campaign also tossed accusations of misconduct at conservative Republican candidate Sharron Angle - also seemingly without any clear evidence.

"Angle's goons are also breaking laws with their intimidation tactics at the polling places, handing out literature to potential voters that discourages them from participating and taking pictures of voters as they enter polling places -- all in violation of laws that prevent electioneering within 100 feet of the polls," Reid aide Kelly Steele said in a statement.

Poll Watching Efforts Draw Scrutiny
More on the Nevada Senate Race

Meanwhile, Angle's campaign is using its allegations against the Reid campaign to raise money. Cleta Mitchell, an attorney for Angle's campaign, sent out a fundraising letter this week saying "Harry Reid intends to steal this election if he can't win it outright."

Mitchell said the Reid campaign is using "ACORN-style tactics," such as offering small gifts like gift cards in exchange for a vote for Reid, with the aim of skewing the results.

"What Harry Reid is doing is clearly illegal," she wrote. "We need to deploy literally dozens of election law attorneys and poll watchers to combat these tactics at a cost of nearly $80,000."

Miller, the Nevada secretary or state, responded to Mitchell's pitch, remarking that it "fails to cite any evidence of 'vote-buying'" beyond reports to the campaign hotline. Miller encourages voters to contact the Election Integrity Task Force if they have concerns.

"Complaints should contain specific information, not conjecture and rumor used in support of a plea for financial contributions," he said.

Mitchell's call for more poll watchers is part of a broader effort among conservative groups across the country to train volunteers to deploy at polling stations. They say the poll watchers are needed to ensure every vote is counted correctly, but Democrats are accusing them of attempting to suppress Democratic votes.

A few voters have had documented complaints: On Monday, some voters from Clark County -- home to three quarters of Nevada's residents -- complained that Reid's name had been pre-selected on their ballots. CBS News called the Clark County Election Department, and they denied all claims related to the voting machines automatically pre-selecting Reid for voters. They have investigated the allegations and found no tampering.

While tension mounts as Election Day approaches, polls continue to show a close race. A new Rasmussen poll shows Angle leading Reid by four points, 49 percent to 45 percent.

Angle released a new ad called "Stupid Things Harry Says," blasting the Democrat for his misstatements over the years. "Is there anyone Harry Reid hasn't insulted?" asks a narrator.

The Angle ad, among other things, criticized Reid for having "insulted Hispanics by questioning their judgment in knowing who to vote for." Reid was criticized over the summer for saying, "I don't know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican."

Angle herself has come under scrutiny for using generic pictures Latinos to present a negative image of illegal immigrants. Earlier this month, she told a group of Hispanic students that the ads were not about the U.S. Mexico border, and that the ads were not necessarily portraying Latinos; she also told the Hispanic students that they themselves did not look Latino.

Yet a week later she released another ad in which a narrator complained about "waves of illegal aliens streaming across our border." The ad showed an image of the U.S. border at Texas and contrasts dark-skinned illegal aliens with pictures of vulnerable-looking, white Americans.

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair Robert Menendez, the only Latino in the Senate, said on MSNBC that the "wave" ad was "despicable."

"It tries to portray all Latinos in this country in a negative light in a state that has such a large, vibrant and productive population," he said. "And it goes hand in hand in with what Sharron Angle is doing to try to suppress that vote in Nevada."

The DCCC released its own ad today criticizing Angle's approach to unemployment and Social Security.



Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.

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