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Nevada Governor Says Universal Mail-In Ballots Unnecessary

Joe Lombardo wants to do away with the state’s popular vote-by-mail system and also proposed using a photo ID as a prerequisite for voting. But the Secretary of State assured that the recent elections were secure and successful.

(TNS) — Democratic legislators are rejecting a call by Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo to shorten the window in which the state can receive mail-in ballots, a move they say would make it harder for Nevadans to vote in future elections.

Lombardo also pitched doing away with the state's popular universal vote-by-mail system to align Nevada with "national norms," he said Monday during his first-year State of the State Address.

"All mail-in ballots should be received by the time polls close on Election Day," Lombardo said to some applause from the joint session of the Nevada Assembly and Senate. " Nevada created universal mail-in ballots as a response to COVID. With the pandemic behind us, this expensive process is simply unnecessary."

Lombardo additionally took aim at replacing the state's current method of signature verification — in which elections officials will match a voter's signature with a prior state record when casting a ballot — as a "cumbersome" process. He instead suggested presenting a photo ID as a prerequisite for voting.

"We require people to have a valid form of identification to get on a plane, operate motor vehicles or to purchase alcohol and cigarettes, but not to cast a vote in an election," Lombardo said. "This is illogical."

Democratic Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar, who was sworn in with Lombardo for his first term at the beginning of the year, thanked the governor for voicing concern on the topic but maintained elections in Nevada were among the most secure in the nation.

"I appreciate the governor's focus on elections, and (I) look forward to working with him," Aguilar told the Sun. "I'm confident in the integrity of our elections, including the recent election that saw members of different parties elected up and down the ballot. The 2022 election proved that universal mail ballots work for Nevadans across party and partisan lines, which is a testament to the foresight of our Legislature."

Aguilar continued: "Last November proved that Nevada voters have faith in our elections, and my office is working hard to keep that faith."

Assembly Speaker-designate Steve Yeager, D- Las Vegas, agreed and committed to keep Nevada's existing voting laws in place, maintaining that any attempt to change them in ways suggested by Lombardo could disenfranchise some voters.

"It's a nonstarter," Yeager told reporters shortly after the address Monday. "I felt like we were back in the twilight zone with this issue because of all the 'fraud' that's ever been investigated in this state during past elections, and they've been found to not have any basis in truth."

"I'm not interested in having a conversation about how we're going to strip away people's right to vote," said Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro, D- Las Vegas, the Senate majority leader. "That's not what we're here to do. And if you believe in the constituents that elected you, then you believe their voice should be heard no matter what — which means we should be giving them the opportunity to vote and to make policy changes."

Yeager also pointed to data from the Nevada Secretary of State's Office that showed more than half of voters in the state used some form of mail voting to cast their ballot in the last election. The Legislature in 2020 passed a law that required mail ballots to be sent to voters statewide for elections that year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Democratic-controlled Legislature easily passed a law in 2021 to permanently allow for universal vote-by-mail and same-day voter registration — measures endorsed by Aguilar's predecessor, Republican Barbara Cegavske.

In the 2022 midterm election, 524,227 of the 1,871,188 Nevadans who voted did so with a mail ballot, a voting method that tends to favor Democratic candidates.

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

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

In December, the Sun reported that several Republican state lawmakers supported changes to vote-by-mail, specifically to amend the deadline for the local registrar of voters to receive ballots by Election Day. The current law states that a ballot must be postmarked by Election Day to be counted and allows ballots to be received by the registrar up to four days after the election.

That can cause election results to take up to several days to be made final, as was the case during the 2022 election. The nation's eyes were on Nevada for more than four days following the Nov. 8 contest to see which major political party would control the U.S. Senate. Despite repeated warnings by election officials that the process was playing out exactly as it should have, the unofficial results were among the last in the nation to be finalized.

The delay helped ignite suspicion and unfounded conspiracy theories that nefarious, and even illegal, activity was taking place to subvert the election.

That was most evident in social media posts by former President Donald Trump, who in 2020 falsely stated that election results were "rigged" against him, and two years later voiced a similar suspicion (without evidence) of voter fraud taking place in Nevada in November.

"I've actually spoken with some of the Democrats in various offices across the state, and they've expressed a frustration on voter ballot returns and how long it took," Rep. P.K. O'Neill, R- Carson City, the Assembly's minority floor leader, told the Sun last year. "They seem open to a new discussion on it."

Should Democratic lawmakers remain entrenched in maintaining the status quo on elections, it will mark an impasse between them and Lombardo.

Any legislation introduced by the Lombardo administration would need to earn the support of enough lawmakers to clear both chambers, both of which are controlled by Democrats. Such a task appears especially difficult to overcome in the Nevada Assembly, where Democrats hold a veto-proof majority. Any progressive bills passed by legislative Democrats would need the support of Lombardo to be signed into law.

(c)2023 the Las Vegas Sun (Las Vegas, Nev.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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