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It's no time for Democrats to gamble with election integrity in Nevada

It's no time for Democrats to gamble with election integrity in Nevada
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With a presidential election less than 100 days away, state leaders across the U.S. are rightly evaluating what worked – and what didn’t – during the 2020 primaries. Two weeks ago, Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske indicated that she intended to hold a traditional in-person and absentee election in November. In response, Democratic legislators, in control of both houses of the legislature, stripped her of that decision-making ability by granting it instead to the Democratic governor, opening wide the door to repeat the primary’s chaos with conspicuously higher stakes.

Thanks to this wrongheaded legislation, ballots in the 2020 presidential election will be sent to every registered voter and can be collected by anyone, even campaign operatives. The new law will result in an election devoid of necessary safeguards, casting doubt on the legitimacy of the results. 

In 2016, just 6 percent of voters cast their ballots by mail. Despite 94 percent of voters heading to their polling place four years ago, just one polling place was open in every county in June’s primary (except in Clark County, which encompasses Las Vegas, where there were three). Thanks to a shady settlement in a Democrat vs. Democrat lawsuit, millions of blank ballots were sent out to inactive voter registrations as well as active ones, setting off a domino effect that put Nevada in the news for all the wrong reasons. 

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Postal employees wondered what to do with ballots addressed to a deceased person, or whether ballots were safe in a deserted mailbox outside an empty home. Pictures of unsecured blank ballots strewn around trash cans littered the internet. Residents in apartment complexes reported seeing them stuffed behind bulletin boards or deserted in common areas. Voters were left wondering whether the validity of election results would be nullified by this multitude of loose, unsecured ballots. At a time when trust in institutions is historically low, Nevadans deserve better than this laissez-faire mistreatment of the sacred right to vote. 

The procedures set up in this new law are a long way from the traditional absentee voting that we have long used in Nevada. By setting up universal mail-in voting, Democrats are eliminating the necessary safeguard of a ballot request form, which is used to verify a voter’s valid registration, address and state ID number. Without a request form, the only safeguard is matching the signature on the return envelope against the voter’s original registration form. In the primary, if the signatures did not match, the ballot was thrown out. Now Democrats have jeopardized even this safeguard by making it extremely difficult to reject a ballot based on a signature mismatch. This puts Nevadan voters in uncharted territory. Without a ballot request form, and without signature matching, what safeguards are in place to ensure that the intended voter casts one of the millions of ballots that will be sent out across the state? 

Equally disturbingly, campaign operatives and other third-party groups can “assist” senior citizens and individuals with disabilities in filling out their ballot and turning it in. There are no safeguards to keep this practice from influencing the valid choice of the voter. Whom they vote for may very well depend on which operative shows up at their door first to “help” them fill out a ballot. Is that any way to run a free and fair election?

Evidence from other states shows that it is not. Voters in California, which also ran a mail-only election, saw more than 100,000 ballots tossed out, either for being late or for not matching the signature on file. It is difficult to know whether these were legitimate voters whose signatures had changed, or if the rejections were ensuring election integrity. In a New Jersey election, a campaign is accused of door-knocking in a nursing home, asking residents to bring their blank ballot downstairs so they could “assist” in filling it out. One resident reported that the staffer took her ballot and filled it in for her, only handing it back to ask for her signature. Would anyone trust the “assistance” of these partisan campaigners to be anything but corrupt? 

In June, less than 30 percent of Nevada’s voters cast ballots, yet the fallout was pervasive. In the 2016 presidential election, turnout was 2.5 times as high, at 77 percent. If the mail-in voting system could not stand up when less than one-third of registered voters cast ballots, why would anyone think it will stand up with almost three times as many voters? 

Registered Democrats make up just 38 percent of Nevada’s electorate. But they imposed their will not just on their own party but on all Republican, independent and unaffiliated voters as well. Chaos, mistrust and uncertainty will prevail on November 4 and beyond in Nevada. Democrats would do well to allow the secretary of state to conduct our traditional tested general election to quell concerns in such an important election.  

Adam Laxalt is a former attorney general of Nevada and 2018 candidate for governor.