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EDITORIAL: Lombardo pushes needed elections reforms

The most suspenseful days of a campaign are supposed to come before Election Day, not after it. That’s just one reason lawmakers in Carson City need to modify Nevada’s election laws.

Legislators will discuss numerous election reform bills in Carson City after the session begins Monday. In his State of the State address, Gov. Joe Lombardo laid out several changes he wants to see. These include an end to universal mail balloting, voter identification and new restrictions on ballot harvesting.

He also wants to move up the deadline to return mail ballots. Currently, mail ballots can be received up to four days after Election Day. It takes more work to process mail ballots too. This timeline contributed to the public not learning the results of several major elections until days after the election.

Gov. Lombardo described these reforms as “just common sense.” He has a strong case to make. Fewer than 530,000 voters returned a mail ballot. But ballots were sent to almost all of the state’s more than 1.8 million registered voters. You don’t have to claim there’s widespread fraud to point out that 1 million ballots floating around isn’t a best case for election security. That’s especially true as Nevada’s signature verification system is far from foolproof.

Less than two decades ago, this wasn’t even a controversial position. “Absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud,” the bipartisan 2005 Commission on Federal Election Reform noted. Former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker chaired the group. Mr. Carter reversed himself during the 2020 election as Democrats worried their voters wouldn’t show up and vote in-person.

Despite being maligned by Democrat politicians, voter ID enjoys strong support among members of both parties. Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar, a Democrat, opposes requiring ID. He says he’s concerned about it “hindering somebody’s constitutional right.” That’s a noble sentiment that overlooks the other side of that equation. Illegal voting threatens everyone’s constitutional rights.

Arguments on the merits aren’t likely to sway the legislative Democrats, but political expedience might on one issue. Nevada Democrats want the state to host the nation’s first presidential primary. The push to dump the Iowa caucus gained steam after their state couldn’t determine the winner of the 2020 Democratic presidential caucus in a timely manner. Nevada’s early spot is unlikely to last if it takes as long to determine the presidential primary winner as it did in last November’s gubernatorial race.

The reforms laid out by Gov. Lombardo would go a long way to improving Nevada’s elections.

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