Trump slams passage of Nevada bill to send ballots to voters

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CARSON CITY, Nevada – Lawmakers in Nevada have passed a bill that would add the state to a growing list of U.S. states sending ballots to active voters ahead of the November election amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill, which passed on Sunday, is now heading to Governor Steve Sisolak, a Democrat. If he signs it as planned, Nevada will join seven states that plan to automatically mail ballots to voters, including California and Vermont, which decided earlier this summer to adopt voting policies. by automatic correspondence.

President Donald Trump called the passage of the bill an “illegal late-night coup” in a tweet Monday morning. He accused Sisolak of exploiting COVID-19 to make sure the votes in Nevada favor Democrats.

“The governor of the Nevada clubhouse blocked Republicans from entering the state. The post office could never handle the mail traffic without preparation… Go to court! ”

Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid applauded lawmakers’ decision and called Trump’s comments desperate.

“He’s lying about our state leaders and threatening bogus lawsuits just because Democrats made it easier for people to vote,” Reid said in a statement.

Trump has claimed that the mail ballots will lead to fraud and compromise the integrity of the election. The consensus among experts is that all forms of electoral fraud are rare.

Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske told lawmakers on Friday that she was not aware of any fraud during the June primaries, when Nevada sent out absent ballots to all active voters and opened only a limited number of polling stations to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Limited polling stations in Reno and Las Vegas resulted in queues of up to eight hours.

During the June primary, all counties in Nevada had a polling station except Clark County, which had three in the Las Vegas area. The bill requires at least 140 polling stations statewide in November, including 100 in Clark County, which had 179 in the November 2018 election.

Christine Saunders, of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, said the long waits in the June primaries demonstrated why Nevada needs both postal and in-person voting opportunities.

“No one should have to choose between their health and their vote,” she said.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued election guidelines to provide a variety of voting options and limit crowds at polling stations.

In states like Colorado and Oregon, which have been mailing all ballots for years, the process is cheaper than holding an election in person.

But Cegavske said the equipment, education, printing and postage would cost the Nevada Secretary of State’s office an additional $ 3 million, not including the costs for the counties, which distribute and compile the newsletters. to vote.

Nevada spent more than $ 4 million in federal relief dollars during the June primaries, most of which went to counties. Over $ 1 million was spent on renting counting and sorting machines to accommodate more mail-in ballots.

Cegavske, the state’s top election official and only Republican to hold office in the state, opposed the revised procedures. She lambasted the Democratic-controlled Legislature for excluding it from discussions and said she saw a bill just one day before the state assembly vote.

“We were not at all involved in drafting this bill,” she said on Friday.

The bill gives the governor the power to order the secretary of state to adjust electoral procedures during a declared state of emergency. It passed an online party vote by both the Senate and the State Assembly, with Democrats in favor and Republicans against.

Republicans have been particularly distressed by the provisions of the bill that expand who is allowed to collect and deliver the ballots. They warned that this would allow a practice critics call “ballot harvesting,” in which volunteers working for political groups collect and return large quantities of ballots to tip the balance in elections.

Democrats argued that allowing people other than family members to return the ballots would help groups like members of Nevada’s 32 Native American tribes, who have historically struggled to vote and live far away. polling stations, and older people who may need help voting and fear going to the polls. .

For the June primaries, all voters received ballots in the mail and 1.6% voted in person on election day, a tiny fraction compared to the state’s 34.2% who voted in no one in the November 2018 elections.

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Sam Metz is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative corps. Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places reporters in newsrooms to report on outsourced topics.

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