Nevada governor considers universal ballots unnecessary


(TNS) — Democratic lawmakers are rejecting Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo’s call to shorten the window during which the state can receive mail-in ballots, which they say will make it harder for Nevada residents to vote in future elections.

Lombardo also came up with a proposal to scrap the state’s popular universal mail-in voting system to bring Nevada in line with “national norms,” ​​he said Monday during his first year of addressing the state.

“All mail-in ballots must be received by the time the polls close on Election Day,” Lombardo said to applause at a joint session of the Nevada Assembly and the Senate. “In response to COVID, Nevada created universal mail-in ballots. Since the pandemic is over, this costly process is simply not needed.”

Lombardo also sought to replace the state’s current method of signature verification, in which election officials would match a voter’s signature with a previous state record when casting the ballot, as a “burdensome” process. Instead, he offered to show a photo ID as a precondition for voting.

“We require people to have a valid ID to get on a plane, drive a vehicle or buy alcohol and cigarettes, but not vote in elections,” Lombardo said. “It’s illogical.”

Democratic Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar, who was sworn in with Lombardo for his first term earlier in the year, thanked the governor for expressing concern about the matter but said Nevada’s election was one of the safest in the country.

“I appreciate the governor’s focus on the election and (I) look forward to working with him,” Aguilar told reporters. Sun. “I am confident in the fairness of our elections, including recent elections in which members of different parties were elected by ballot. The 2022 election has proven that universal mail-in ballot works for Nevada residents regardless of party or party affiliation, which is a testament to the vision of our Legislature.”

Aguilar continued, “Last November proved that Nevada voters have faith in our election, and my office is working hard to keep that faith.”

Assembly Speaker Designate Steve Yeager, D-Las Vegas, agreed and committed to keeping Nevada’s existing voting laws in place, arguing that any attempt to change them in the ways Lombardo proposed could disenfranchise some voters.

“This is not the beginning,” Yeager told reporters shortly after Monday’s speech. “I felt like we were in the twilight zone again with this issue because of all the ‘fraud’ that was ever investigated in this state during the last election and found to be without merit.”

“I’m not interested in talking about how we’re going to take away people’s voting rights,” said Senator Nicole Cannizzaro, a Las Vegas Democrat and Senate Majority Leader. “We are not here for this. And if you believe in the voters who elected you, then you believe that their voice must be heard no matter what, which means that we must give them the opportunity to vote and make policy changes. .”

Yeager also pointed to data from Nevada’s office of secretary of state that showed more than half of the state’s voters used some form of mail-in voting to vote in the last election. In 2020, the Legislature passed legislation requiring mail-in ballots to be mailed to voters across the state in that year’s elections in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Democratic-controlled Legislature easily passed legislation in 2021 allowing permanent mail-in voting and same-day voter registration, measures favored by Aguilar’s predecessor, Republican Barbara Ciehawske.

In the 2022 midterm elections, 524,227 of Nevada’s 1,871,188 voters voted by mail, a voting method that tends to favor Democratic candidates.

Lombardo acknowledged that mail-in voting was a popular method that even he had used in past elections. But that doesn’t justify the state spending more than $7 million during this two-year period and up to $11 million in future budgets to continue using the system, he said.

“Sending out ballots to more than 1.9 million registered voters is inefficient and unnecessary,” he said.

December Sun reported that several state Republican lawmakers supported changes to mail-in voting, specifically to change the deadline for the local voter registrar to receive ballots by Election Day. The current law states that ballots must be stamped prior to Election Day in order to be counted, and allows ballots to be received by the registrar within four days after the election.

This could result in the release of election results taking up to several days, as was the case during the 2022 elections. The nation’s eyes were on Nevada for more than four days after the Nov. 8 contest to determine which major political party would control the US Senate. Despite repeated warnings from election officials that the process was proceeding exactly as it should, the unofficial results were among the last in the country.

The delay helped fuel suspicions and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories of nefarious and even illegal activities aimed at disrupting the elections.

This was most evident in the social media posts of former President Donald Trump, who falsely claimed in 2020 that the election results were “rigged” against him, and two years later voiced a similar suspicion (without evidence) of voter fraud that took place in Nevada in November .

“I actually spoke to some Democrats in various offices around the state, and they expressed dissatisfaction with the results of the vote and how long it took,” Rep. P. C. O’Neal, R-Carson City, Assembly representative. minority leader said Sun last year. “They seem to be open to a new discussion about this.”

If Democratic lawmakers continue to maintain the status quo in elections, it will become a stalemate between them and Lombardo.

Any legislation introduced by the Lombardo administration must gain the support of enough legislators to clear both houses, both of which are controlled by Democrats. Such a task seems particularly difficult to accomplish in the Nevada State Assembly, where Democrats have a veto-proof majority. Any progressive bills passed by Legislative Democrats need Lombardo’s support to become law.

(c) 2023 The Las Vegas Sun (Las Vegas, Nevada). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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