Elections 2020 Card with Bokeh Background
RENO — Democrats have dropped efforts to block the state's mail-in primary election June 9 after Clark County agreed to provide more in-person polling places in Las Vegas and election officials agreed to other changes intended to protect the rights of elderly and disadvantaged voters.
Lawyers for Nevada's Democratic Party, the Democratic
National Committee and congressional campaign committee were scheduled to go
before a state judge in Carson City on Thursday via telephone in search of an
injunction expanding the number of polling places and mandating mailing of
ballots to all registered voters.
The primary is scheduled to be conducted almost entirely by
mail for the first time in Nevada in an effort to guard against the spread of
COVID-19. Early voting begins May 23.
Last week, a federal judge in Reno refused a conservative
voting rights group's request to block the primary based on arguments the
secretary of state didn't have the authority to change the election rules. They
also said mail-in ballots are more vulnerable to fraud.
U.S. District Judge Miranda Du disagreed. She cited the
unusual circumstances brought on by the pandemic and noted that five states in
the U.S. West currently conduct elections entirely by mail — Oregon,
Washington, Colorado, Utah and Hawaii.
Nevada's "interests in protecting the health and safety
of Nevada voters and to safeguard the voting franchise in light of the COVID-19
pandemic far outweigh any burden on plaintiff's right to vote," Du ruled.
Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske's plan
requires only one in-person polling place be designated in each of Nevada's 17
counties. It also requires ballots to be sent only to voters considered
"active" based on their participation in at least one of the last two
federal elections. "Inactive" voters would have to specifically
request that they be sent an absentee ballot.
The Democrats agreed to withdraw the request for an
emergency injunction after Clark County's registrar of voters said he would add
two additional in-person polling sites, and send ballots to both active and
inactive voters. Clark County is home to about four out of five of Nevada's
voters, including 81% of those listed as inactive, lawyers for the Democrats
Both Clark and Washoe County, the state's second largest
including Reno-Sparks, agreed not to enforce provisions the Democrats said
would disproportionately infringe on voting rights among the elderly and others
living in remote areas.
They feared some would have difficulty meeting requirements
regarding the legal certification of signatures and be able to return the
ballots by mail without outside assistance in some cases.
"The Clark County Registrar made the right decision in
moving to mail ballots to all registered voters — not just those deemed
'active,' expanding the number of in-person polling locations and updating
their signature review process," Nevada's Democratic Party, the national
committees and the progressive group Priorities USA said in a joint statement
They also cheered new steps making it easier to cure
signature problems if ballots are rejected and appoint additional field
registrars to receive mail ballots from voters at their homes if necessary.
"Nevada's other county elections departments should
follow Clark County's lead to ensure nobody has to choose between their health
and their right to vote," the Democrats said.
They said they would continue to press for additional
changes expanding early and in-person voting and making voting by mail as
accessible as possible in the general election in November, but that they were
dropping their legal attempt to force changes in the primary format.
Monica Moazez, spokeswoman for the Nevada attorney general's office representing Cegavske in the case, declined comment Tuesday.