RENO — A federal judge has again rejected a conservative voting rights group’s bid to block the mail-in primary election now under way in Nevada as part of an effort to guard against spread of the coronavirus at traditional polling places.
U.S. District Judge Miranda Du said in a strongly worded opinion late Wednesday the Voters’ Rights Initiative’s “second proverbial bite at the apple is no more fruitful than the first.”
The judge in Reno said she didn’t understand why the group essentially requested reconsideration of her earlier denial of a preliminary injunction to halt the June 9 election instead of appealing it to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, especially given that early voting began May 23.
Ballots already have been mailed to voters statewide. Tens of thousands of voters have filled out their ballots and returned them through the mail to county election offices where many are being processed.
Her latest ruling stops short of dismissing the overall lawsuit, which she says fails to present adequate evidence supporting the main argument that mail-in ballots are more vulnerable to voter fraud.
The lawsuit still could be used as a vehicle to force changes in rules for the general election in November. But it makes it unlikely the federal court will intervene before limited in-person balloting takes place June 9 and final results are finalized within 10 days afterward.
Nevada Right to Life and a rural Republican running for county commissioner joined as new plaintiffs in the latest bid to block the primary, arguing the normal election rules and polling places for in-person voting should be reinstated because the most serious threat posed by the coronavirus has passed.
Lawyers for Nevada said the effort to declare voting by mail illegal was an attempt to stymie voter turnout — especially in the heavily Democratic Las Vegas area — under the guise of protecting civil rights.
Judge Du said the latest “unreasonable and inequitable” request for injunctive relief seeks to “undo“ votes already cast and “would result in squandering the state’s investment for the sake of an unestablished specter of voter fraud.”
“COVID-19 continues to present a threat to public health,” she wrote in the 17-page opinion. “Nevada’s interests in protecting the health and safety of Nevada’s voters and to safeguard the voting franchise are compelling.“