Updated May 1, 2020 - 5:38 am
RENO — A federal judge tossed a conservative group’s move to thwart Nevada’s mail-only June 9 primary, ruling Thursday that the state’s plans to conduct a socially distanced election in response to COVID-19 “far outweigh any burden” on the group’s voting rights.
U.S. District Judge Miranda Du’s 24-page ruling following Wednesday’s hearing puts one legal challenge to the mail-in election to rest. Another one, brought by Democrats who want more in-person polling opportunities provided, is pending in state court and will be heard next week.
Du found that the plaintiffs, represented by lawyers for the Voters’ Rights Initiative, did not have proper standing to seek an injunction and had based their effort on a “speculative claim of voter fraud resulting in dilution of votes.”
The group had challenged Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske’s March 24 decision to change primary voting to mail instead of in-person voting. Under the plan, active registered voters will be mailed absentee ballots and return them by postage-paid envelope. Voters also may still cast ballots in person during early voting, which starts May 23. But each of the state’s 17 counties will staff only one polling place.
The plaintiffs claimed that mail balloting lacked sufficient safeguards against fraud, and as a result, illegal votes that might be cast would dilute the ballots of legitimate voters.
They also argued that Cegavske did not have the authority to change election procedures on her own, claiming only the Legislature could. Du ruled against them.
“It is clear that as triggered by the uncertainties of COVID-19, the public’s interests align with the plan’s all-mail election provisions,” Du ruled. An injunction precluding the use of mail ballots “would put Nevadans at risk” and result in more confusion for voters, she said.