CARSON CITY, Nev. (KLAS) — Democrats in the Nevada Legislature hope to make mail-in voting, which expanded to all registered voters for the November election due to the pandemic, the law of the land.
Assembly Bill 321 would require a person opt-out rather than opt-in to receiving a mail-in ballot. The proposal would also require election workers take a class on signature verification.
Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson said the bill makes participating in democracy easier and more secure.
“Voting is a right. It’s an absolute right,” Frierson said. “I think it’s incumbent on us to make sure every eligible voter has the ability to cast their ballot and participate. We’ve seen it in record numbers. As long as Nevadans are taking advantage of that opportunity, I believe we need to continue to make it available to them.”
Nevada instituted a large mail-in ballot program amid the coronavirus pandemic, but its provisions are only applicable during states of emergencies. Nearly half of all votes in the 2020 Election in Nevada were cast by mail, the Secretary of State’s Office reported.
If passed, the bill would also require the Secretary of State’s Office to work with the State Registrar of Vital Statistics to crosscheck a statewide active voter registration list.
Current Nevada laws allows mail-in and absentee ballots to be accepted for seven days after the election. Frierson’s proposal would cut that time down to four days, an addition he said was added to appease his Republican colleagues.
“Those are things that certainly move us in the right direction,” Republican Assem. Tom Roberts said. “Whether it gets any or all of us on board remains to be seen.”
Democrats do not need a single Republican vote to pass the bill due to their majorities in both legislative chambers. Republicans have expressed concern about the security of mail-in ballots, specifically when it comes to who is handling them and who is verifying signatures.
“The simple fact is, we have a transient community in Vegas, and a lot of people move, and you have a lot of ballots floating around, and you don’t know where they are at,” Roberts said.
“When you have record turnout, we can’t go back to having our seniors standing in line for seven hours to cast their vote,” Frierson said. “This isn’t a trip to Costco. This is a constitutional right.”
Last month, Nevada Republicans introduced a bill to require a voter to provide proof of identity at the polls. Major provisions of the Republicans’ legislation would require the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue voter identification cards to Nevadans without IDs. If a person’s identity is questioned at the polls, a person would have to “furnish proof of identity to respond to such a challenge,” a preliminary version of the bill reads.
Similar to the Democrats’ proposal, the Republicans’ proposed law would also require Nevada’s Secretary of State to match voter registration lists with records from the State Registrar of Vital Statistics, specifically to crosscheck the names of dead Nevadans at least once a month. This process already happens at the county level, but not with a statewide standard other than to be “regularly maintained.” Current law also requires the DMV to work with the Social Security Administration to update the list.
Lawyers for former President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign have claimed 1,500 deceased Nevadans voted in the November election, but this claim was tossed out of court several times.
The Republicans’ bill would also require a person who casts a provisional ballot to provide proof of identity or sign an affidavit stating why they are voting provisionally. It would also tighten how absentee ballots are delivered. The ballots would have to be received by an election department by 7 p.m. on Election Day. Current law allows ballots to be accepted for several days after due to the speed of the U.S. Postal Service.
The I-Team found two instances of dead individuals having votes cast in their names. The Secretary of State’s Office, which is headed by a Republican, the Nevada Supreme Court and several judges said there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud or 1,500 deceased voters having ballots cast in their names. Five people voted twice in Clark County. Those allegations are under investigation.
The Republicans’ proposal would also require ballots be counted within 48 hours after polls close on Election Day. In November, it took more than a week for Clark County to finish the counting of its ballots due to the amount of mail-in ballots.
A hearing on AB 321 is scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday. Public comment can be made via Zoom during the hearing.