New bid to stop Nevada mail-in voting says virus threat gone
RENO — A conservative voting rights group that lost an earlier bid to block next month’s mail-in primary election in Nevada says the normal election rules and polling places for in-person voting should be reinstated because the most serious threat posed by coronavirus has passed.
Lawyers for the Voters’ Rights Initiative filed an amended complaint in U.S. District Court in Reno on Wednesday seeking to revive efforts to prevent the June 9 primary from going forward under the special procedures the secretary of state ordered to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
New plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Nevada Right to Life and a rural Republican running for county commissioner. They are asking Judge Miranda Du to schedule an expedited hearing and issue a ruling by the end of next week.
“Expanding mail balloting is unnecessary to combat COVID-19,” the amended complaint states.
“The curve is flattening, the spread of the virus is being controlled, the fatality rate is decreasing rapidly, testing is more readily available and widespread, and the death rate is much lower than originally expected,” it says.
The new filings also argue recent changes made in Clark County to expand in-person voting opportunities and send absentee ballots to all its registered voters in the Las Vegas area give them an unfair advantage over other Nevadans.
Washoe County’s registrar of voters in Reno filed a motion Monday — and the state joined it Tuesday — asking Du to dismiss the case for good.
Du rejected the original complaint April 30 that alleged Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske lacked authority to implement temporary procedures for the mail-in primary that the critics say is vulnerable to voter fraud.
Five days later, Nevada’s Democratic Party dropped a separate lawsuit in state court challenging the primary rules after Clark County agreed to open three polling places for in-person voting and send absentee ballots to inactive as well as active registered voters.
Cegavske’s plan requires only one polling place be established in each of Nevada’s 17 counties. It also required that inactive voters who hadn’t participated in either of the last two federal elections be sent an absentee ballot only if they specifically requested one.
Early voting begins May 23.
In addition to the state’s leading anti-abortion group, new plaintiffs in the case include Gary Gladwill, who is seeking the GOP nomination for county commissioner in Lyon County east of Reno.
The amended complaint points to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s May 9 reopening of restaurants, salons and other non-essential businesses that had been closed since mid-March.
“Along with other states, Nevada has begun to emerge from its pandemic shutdown with phase one of reopening,” the complaint states. It said the same social distancing and good hygiene practices that have proven effective in preventing the spread of the virus at grocery stores and other essential businesses are also an effective way to prevent the spread of COVD-19 for in-person voting.
At least 331 people have died from the virus in Nevada. As of Wednesday, state health officials reported 6,394 positive cases among the 66,672 people who have been tested.
Sisolak’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
The Democratic governor said last week that casinos, nightclubs, spas and gyms must remain closed until further notice in an effort to continue to guard against the spread of the virus.
Nevada may be able to relax more rules at the end of May, Sisolak said. But he also said he may need to reimpose restrictions if the number of COVID-19 cases starts to balloon, and he dismissed those who argue the virus no longer posed a threat to public health.
“I see some folks saying mission accomplished,” Sisolak said last week. “That’s not true.”