Kirk Hartle’s wife Rosemarie died in 2017, but a mail-in ballot bearing her name was used to cast a vote in the 2020 election in November. Mr Kirk, who is registered as a Republican, was rattled by the idea that someone stole his dead wife’s ballot to commit vote fraud.
“That is pretty sickening to me to be honest with you,” he told Nevada CBS affiliate KLAS-TV last November.
Nearly one year later, Mr Hartle was charged with two counts of vote fraud by the state’s attorney general, alleging it was Mr Hartle who cast a fraudulent ballot in his dead wife’s name.
According to a criminal complaint alleging two felonies, Mr Hartle voted twice in 2020 elections, once using his name and again using Rosemarie Hartle’s.
“Voter fraud is rare, but when it happens it undercuts trust in our election system and will not be tolerated by my office,” state Attorney General Aaron Ford 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.”
Mr Hartle faces two felonies – voting using a name of another person and voting more than once in the same election – punishable with up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. His initial court appearance is set for 18 November.
The criminal complaint does not outline how investigators determined it was Mr Hartle who cast a fraudulent vote but argues that he “did knowingly and feloniously vote in the 2020 general election in Las Vegas, Nevada, having previously voted in the same election”.
A statement from his attorney said Mr Hartle “looks forward to responding to the allegations in court”.
Mr Hartle is also an executive at Ahern Rentals Inc, a company that hosted a campaign event for Mr Trump in September 2020. The company was fined $3,000 for violating Covid-19-related mask and crowd size protocol after drawing thousands to an indoor facility near Las Vegas.
The case follows a wave of election lies and conspiracy theories promoted by Donald Trump and his allies that the 2020 election was “rigged” against him. His own commission to investigate voter fraud could not produce any meaningful evidence; neither could the US Department of Justice under his administration, election officials across the US or his own campaign.
Dozens of lawsuits from his campaign and allies were withdrawn, dismissed or dropped entirely, and his attorneys have faced libel lawsuits from voting machine companies targeted by their conspiracy theories.
Despite a lack of evidence, spurious legal challenges and false claims from administration officials sought to legitimise a narrative that would later drive violent threats and an attack on the US Capitol on 6 January.
Last November, Mr Trump called Nevada a “cesspool of fake votes”. The Nevada Republican Party pointed to Mr Hartle’s story as evidence.
Far-right media personality Dinesh D’Souza posted about the case on Twitter. “Are you really going to tell me voter fraud doesn’t exist?” he wrote.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson called the case a “threat to our system, and it’s being hidden by a news media totally vested in a Joe Biden presidency”.
Days after the election, former Nevada attorney general Adam Laxalt and right-wing personalities Matt Schlapp and Ric Grenell, among others, launched a campaign in the state to address what they alleged was rampant voter fraud in Nevada. Joe Biden won the state by more than 33,000 votes
“Dead people voted in Clark County,” Mr Schlapp claimed at the time, pointing to two examples, including Mr Hartle’s case.