Democrats File Lawsuit to Expand Voting Access in Nevada

Today, the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Nevada State Democratic Party, and Priorities USA filed suit in the Eighth Judicial District Court of Clark County seeking to expand voting access for Nevada’s primary on June 9.

The suit is also being brought on behalf of several Nevadans whose right to vote is being infringed under the current policies in light of the coronavirus pandemic and who recognize the importance of providing safeguards to vote by mail and making sure that those who vote in person can do so safely — including a student who was displaced from university housing due to coronavirus and cannot easily obtain a ballot sent to his university address and other individuals who would have to drive outrageous distances because of the lack of polling locations.

Under the Nevada Secretary of State’s current policy, 87% of Nevada’s population could be serviced by two voting centers, likely resulting in long lines like in Wisconsin, while hundreds of thousands of voters deemed “inactive” would not be mailed an absentee ballot. Other rules barring volunteers from assisting voters and allowing arbitrary ballot rejections based on signature mismatches also threaten Nevadans’ ability to safely participate in the election.

The suit seeks the following:

  • Mail ballots to all registered voters, not just those with active status. Mailing ballots only to “active” voters would affect thousands of Nevadans who are likely to vote in the primary regardless of their status. In 2016, 33,084 Nevadans reactivated their voter registration by participating in the election. More than 250,000 registered Nevadans have an inactive status and would not receive a ballot under the Secretary of State’s current policy.

  • Increase the number of polling locations to reflect the population and geographic size of each county. Expanding the number of well-organized and hygienic polling locations counties must offer during both the early voting period and on Election Day will prevent overcrowded polling locations and keep rural voters from being forced to travel unreasonable distances to cast their ballots. This will also allow for better assistance to voters with language barriers or disabilities, and will help prevent what happened in Wisconsin.

  • Bar enforcement of the state’s voter assistance ban and ballot rejection rules. Suspending prosecutions of voter assistance will allow for community organizations to aid with the collection and delivery of ballots, while barring arbitrary ballot rejections will prevent the disenfranchisement of whole swaths of the electorate, including voters with disabilities, elderly voters, and voters who speak English as a second language.

By implementing these measures, the state can prioritize the safety and wellbeing of Nevadans without compromising the integrity of this election.

Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez: 

“These steps are essential to holding a safe, fair, and accessible election on June 9. In the midst of a global pandemic, our leaders should be working to help us safely exercise our right to vote — not standing in the way. It’s never been more urgent to take action that will expand access to voting, protect public health, and preserve Nevadans’ right to make their voices heard.”

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairwoman Cheri Bustos:

“Nevadans shouldn’t have to risk their health in order to vote or face unnecessarily restrictive policies to exercise their right to vote. As we confront the challenge of COVID-19, elected officials should be doing everything possible to ensure our elections are both fair and safe. The integrity of our democracy depends on it.”

Nevada State Democratic Party Chair William McCurdy II:

“I understand the intention behind the decision to make changes to our primary election and applaud the expansion of vote by mail, but we must do more to ensure every Nevadan has the opportunity to make their voice heard. It is possible to adapt our election process to meet our current circumstances in a way that prioritizes the safety and wellbeing of Nevadans without compromising the integrity of our elections. In Nevada, a majority of voters participate early and in-person and we fought hard to implement same-day voter registration. Under the current plan, same-day registrants could have to choose between voting in person at a single, overcrowded polling location in each county — creating long lines like we saw in Wisconsin — or foregoing their constitutional right altogether. Our recommended changes will make it possible for every eligible voter to have the opportunity to participate and do so safely.”

Priorities USA Chairman Guy Cecil:

“The measures outlined in this suit will ensure that Nevadans have the expanded access to voting that they deserve during these challenging times. In the midst of this national crisis, it is critically important that we ensure that everyone has safe access to the ballot. The American people deserve nothing less and we owe it to them to protect and defend the sacred right to vote.”