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Nevada Republican who claimed someone stole dead wife’s ballot is charged with voter fraud

Donald “Kirk” Hartle, a Las Vegas businessman, is facing criminal charges of voting twice in the November 2020 election, including with his dead wife's ballot, Nevada state Attorney General Aaron Ford announced Thursday, Oct. 21. (AP Photo/John Locher/File)

Donald Kirk Hartle looked troubled last November. It was a few days after Election Day and the Las Vegas man was telling a local news station that someone had stolen his late wife’s mail-in ballot and returned it to Clark County election officials, according to Nevada’s online ballot tracker.

“That is pretty sickening to me, to be honest with you,” Hartle said in an interview then with KLAS 8 News Now. “It was, uh, disbelief. It just — it made no sense to me.”

Hartle noted that his late wife, Rosemarie, had died in 2017, but remained on the voter rolls. The signature on the returned ballot had matched what election officials had on file for Rosemarie, KLAS 8 News Now reported at the time, leaving Hartle to wonder “who took advantage of his grief” and how had they pulled it off?

Nearly a year later, there appears to be an answer.

On Thursday, the Nevada attorney general’s office announced it had filed two charges of voter fraud against Hartle, alleging that he forged his late wife’s name to vote with her ballot. Both charges — one for voting using the name of another person and another for voting more than once in the same election — are category D felonies that each can carry a prison sentence of up to four years, along with a fine of up to $5,000.

“Voter fraud is rare, but when it happens it undercuts trust in our election system and will not be tolerated by my office,” Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, a Democrat, said in a statement. “I want to stress that our office will pursue any credible allegations of voter fraud and will work to bring any offenders to justice.”

Hartle allegedly voted twice, including once in his late wife’s name, between Oct. 26 and Oct. 30 of last year, according to a criminal complaint. David Chesnoff, an attorney for Hartle, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday, but told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that his client would respond to the allegations in court. His first court appearance is scheduled for Nov. 18.

The voter-fraud allegation that perfectly captures the post-2020 Republican Party

The charges are the result of an investigation by the Nevada secretary of state’s office, which had been criticized by the Nevada GOP for not doing enough to investigate voter fraud allegations. In April, state GOP leaders voted to censure Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a fellow Republican, for “[putting] the reliability of our elections in Nevada in question.”

“Our office takes voter fraud very seriously,” Cegavske said in a statement Thursday. “Our Securities Division worked hard to bring this case to a close.”

The case was one that local and national Republican leaders touted last year as concrete evidence of voter fraud. Even before Election Day, then-president Donald Trump had already been pushing baseless claims that the election was rigged against him, something he would continue to do for nearly a year more.

“Kirk was surprised to find that his late wife Rosemarie, a Republican, cast a ballot in this years election despite having passed away in 17’,” the Nevada GOP tweeted last November, citing Hartle’s case. “The media needs to understand we are finding concrete cases of voter irregularities that they must expose.”

According to his LinkedIn profile, Hartle is the chief financial officer and treasurer for the Ahern Family of Companies, whose owner, Don Ahern, is a prominent Trump supporter. The company was fined last year for flouting pandemic safety guidelines in order to host a rally for Trump in Nevada.

As The Washington Post’s Philip Bump reported, the claims by Hartle, a registered Republican, spread quickly in conservative circles, jumping from local outlets to Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, who used it to bolster Trump supporters’ assertions that widespread voter fraud could have swayed the 2020 election results.

Last November, Carlson declared on his show something that would wind up being prescient: “We don’t know who did this,” he said. “We wish we did, because it’s fraud.”

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