RENO – Nevada plaintiffs backed by a conservative voting-watch group are trying again to block the state’s all vote-by-mail June 9 primary, arguing that mail-only balloting is no longer necessary to limit the risk of COVID-19 spreading among voters.
The True the Vote group’s revised complaint seeking an injunction also argues that Clark County’s procedures for distributing ballots and conducting the election unduly favor that county’s voters over those in other parts of the state.
“Expanding mail balloting is unnecessary to combat COVID-19,” lawyers for the plaintiffs wrote in a complaint filed Wednesday. “There has been no established causal link between in-person voting and the contracting of COVID.”
Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske ordered the mail-in election in March in response to the spreading COVID-19 outbreak. The move brought legal challenges from both ends of the political spectrum, but Democratic interests dropped their fight when Clark County agreed last week to amend its procedures.
The county added additional in-person voting sites; agreed to send ballots to all registered voters, not just those on the state’s active voter rolls, and to permit deputized bipartisan “field registrars” to gather sealed ballots from voters.
Initially, the conservative opposition claimed that mail balloting lacked sufficient safeguards against fraud and that Cegavske did not have the authority to change election procedures on her own. U.S. District Court Judge Miranda Du ruled against them May 1, saying the state’s health-conscious plans for a socially distanced election “far outweigh any burden” on the group’s voting rights.
The plaintiffs, in their revised challenge, cite a diminishing threat of infection and Nevada’s decision, along with other states, to begin relaxing social distancing requirements, such as mandated business closures.
“The same social distancing and good hygiene practices…are also an effective way to prevent the spread of the virus for in-person voting,” lawyers wrote, asking for an expedited hearing and decision next week.
Besides reasserting their claim of potential fraud, the group said Clark County’s changes to procedures there “gives voters advantages over other-county voters.”
In an order Friday, Du said she would set a hearing for May 22 but might rule without one after reviewing briefs.
Voters are currently filling out mail ballots and returning them to various county elections offices around the state.