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September 20, 2021

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Lawmaker wants to make universal mail-in voting permanent in Nevada

Counting Ballots

John Locher/AP

A county worker loads mail-in ballots into a scanner that records the votes at a tabulating area at the Clark County Election Department, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, in Las Vegas.

CARSON CITY — Expanded mail-in voting implemented in Nevada last year — which Democrats and voting rights activists praised and Republicans criticized — could become permanent.

Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, is expected to introduce a bill similar to a one-time measure passed last year amid the pandemic to send mail-in ballots to all active registered voters. The major difference is the bill would apply to all future elections.

“It wouldn’t be consistent with Nevada’s independent spirit to take that option away from voters,” Frierson said.

The legislation may address the speed at which votes are counted and reported, but specifics are still being ironed out, Frierson said.

Educating the public about the safety of mail-in ballots is a priority, he said.

“I think that we absolutely have to take into account that there are some people who are, I believe, misled with false information about fraudulent activity,” Frierson said.

Mail-in ballots were at the heart of a partisan fight during last year’s presidential election, with Democrats arguing they expanded voting opportunities and kept voters safe during the pandemic and Republicans making unsupported claims they contribute to voter fraud.

Nevada election officials, including Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, have said there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

When the original bill was passed in August, it immediately received pushback from state and national Republicans. No Republican lawmakers voted for the bill and then-president Donald Trump tweeted that the bill should be met with “immediate litigation.”

And it was. The Trump campaign and the state GOP filed a lawsuit to block the measure, which failed. It was the first in a string of unsuccessful lawsuits aimed at the state’s expanded voting measures.

Nevada Republicans have continued their opposition to mail-in voting, saying it contributes to distrust in the election processes.

In the last election, far more Democrats voted by mail than Republicans.

More than 690,000 of 1.43 million ballots cast in November 2020 came through the mail. More than 319,000 Democrats voted by mail, compared to about 181,000 Republicans and 190,000 independents.

Assembly Minority Leader Robin Titus, R-Wellington, said universal mail-in voting contributes to political division and “will further degrade the fragile civic trust” in Nevada.

On Wednesday, the progressive voter rights website Democracy Docket published a piece by Frierson in which he said the state made “historic gains in the fight against voter suppression”

“We will continue to make ‘good trouble’ here in Nevada by ensuring all eligible Nevadans have many safe, convenient and secure options to cast their ballot,” he said.