updated 10/13/2004 1:24:18 PM ET 2004-10-13T17:24:18

Elections officials have rebuffed an attempt by a former GOP operative to purge about 17,000 Democrats from the voter rolls in the battleground state of Nevada, where the two presidential candidates are in a dead heat.

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Dan Burdish, former head of the state Republican Party, filed a challenge last week claiming the Democrats should be removed from the rolls because they were inactive voters.

But Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax rejected the move Tuesday, saying Burdish could only challenge voters in his precinct, and then only if he has personal knowledge that they are inactive.

“I don’t think pulling names off a database equates to personal knowledge,” Lomax said.

Under state law, voters are placed on “inactive status” if they move and don’t update their addresses within 30 days of receiving notice to do so. Their registrations are then canceled if they don’t vote in two consecutive federal elections.

Democrats have criticized Burdish for trying to influence the hotly contested congressional race between Republican Rep. Jon Porter and his Democratic challenger, former casino executive Tom Gallagher, in the 3rd District.

State Republican officials have also distanced themselves from Burdish.

But Burdish denied trying to disenfranchise people.

The Democrats are just “blowing hot air as far as I’m concerned,” Burdish said. “I’m not suppressing any vote unless it’s in a local district they are not allowed to vote in.”

The latest poll from Oct. 5 showed Democratic Sen. John Kerry with a 1 percentage point lead over President Bush in Nevada.

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