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Nevada lawmakers named in election denial report walk back past comments



This story was originally published by The Nevada Independent. Sign up for its newsletters here.

The two Nevada lawmakers highlighted in a new report tracking election deniers in state legislatures have reversed themselves and now say that there was no evidence that massive voter fraud occurred in the 2020 election.

The March report from the States United Action claimed that state Sen. Jeff Stone (R-Henderson) and Assemblyman Ken Gray (R-Dayton) spread lies that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election, despite evidence to the contrary, and noted that the two could influence election-related legislation as members of their respective chambers' judiciary committees.

The report from the States United Action — a left-leaning election law nonprofit — identified more than 201 sitting legislators in seven swing states as “Election Deniers,” warning that they pose “a threat to current and future elections, either by their actions as legislators, by promoting disinformation and conspiracy theories, or by their demonstrated failure to respect legitimate election results.”

In Nevada, the report cited a lengthy Facebook post published by Stone on Nov. 19, 2020, that stated: "Is A Peaceful Coup Blatantly Happening In The USA? YES!" Stone added in the post that "big tech" and "traditional media sources" are "all corrupt and may be complicit in this vast conspiracy to end the Trump Presidency at any cost."

Stone, who worked at the time for Trump as the western regional director of the U.S. Department of Labor before his election to the state Senate in 2022, said in an interview that the post came out of concern about potential fraud but was one post out of hundreds of social media updates he made around the time. He said he never received a call from the report's creators about his intention behind the post.

"I would not call myself an election denier," Stone told The Nevada Independent. "Were there instances of fraud? Yes. Was it enough to throw the election? I don't know. I don't believe that it happened based on the evidence that I've seen."

President Joe Biden defeated Trump in Nevada by more than 33,000 votes in the 2020 election, but Trump and many Republicans spent the post-election period promoting fantastical and unfounded claims of mass voter fraud in Nevada and other swing states. A move to mail-in ballot options in the 2020 election fueled many of the conspiracy theories despite fact checkers concluding fraud related to mail-in voting is “rare,” and there is “no evidence” to support the belief that mail-in voting has caused widespread voter fraud.

Nevada’s former secretary of state, a Republican, said there was no “evidentiary support” that widespread voter fraud occurred in the state’s 2020 election.

In 2022, The Associated Press reported that Gray was among a cohort of Republicans convinced that Trump won the 2020 election.

"I do believe the election was stolen," Gray said at a campaign rally in 2022 when he was the chair of the rural Lyon County Board of Commissioners and a state legislative candidate. Gray easily won his 2022 Assembly race and is running for re-election.

The report cited the rally remarks and a 2022 Facebook post from Gray, saying he “believes it was stolen” and that "mistrust of the [election] system is just to [sic] pervasive."

Gray responded to the report in an interview, saying he does not "necessarily believe that it was some widespread conspiracy … it just had left a lot of darn questions in my mind."

“I’ll tell you, I find it very, very hard to believe that Joe Biden got more votes than any presidential candidate in history, especially Barack Obama,” he told The Nevada Independent. “I mean, Barack Obama had people flocking to the polls, and I just don't see Biden having that power.”

Assemblyman Ken Gray (R-Dayton) speaks with Assembly Minority Leader P.K. O'Neill (R-Carson City) inside the Legislature on April 14, 2023 in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

However, he said he still wanted to push for changes to the state’s election system because a segment of the population does not believe that the state’s elections are safe or secure.

He cited the recent "glitch" in which a state website incorrectly showed that voters had cast a ballot in the presidential primary as another example of eroding public confidence in the election system. The error occurred after the state's recent presidential primary and did not affect vote tabulation.

"I think we do need to make some massive changes in our system and make sure people re-engage in a system that they can trust," Gray said. "People that don't trust the system, they can't be ignored.”

Stone and Gray co-sponsored bills in 2023 that would have established special state law enforcement units to investigate suspected election crimes or irregularities. Both bills failed in the Democrat-controlled Legislature.

"Everybody needs to work towards building the faith in the security back [in] our election system and getting people back out to vote and encouraging people to take part in our democratic process," Gray said. "I spent 26 years in the in the military and it literally breaks my heart to see people saying, ‘I'm not going to vote because I don't trust the system, or my vote doesn't count.’"

This story was corrected at 2:10 p.m. on 3/29/2024 to reflect that States United Action is the report's creator.

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