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EDITORIAL: Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske makes right move with mail-in primary

Nevada’s primary election is more than 10 weeks out, but Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske isn’t taking any chances. On Tuesday, she announced that balloting would be conducted almost entirely by mail because of the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

“Based on extensive conversations with Nevada’s 17 county election officials,” Ms. Cegavske said in a statement, “we have jointly determined that the best option for the primary election is to conduct an all-mail election.”

This is a wise move, both pragmatically and practically, regardless of what the future holds. Not only would keeping people from congregating at polling places potentially help curtail the spread of the virus, but fear of the upper-respiratory illness would almost certainly result in significantly suppressed turnout. Transitioning to a mail-in process for the June 9 election solves both issues.

Ms. Cegavske said that all active registered voters will receive ballots in the mail that they may return free of charge or drop off at designated locations. There will be opportunities for in-person voting in order to comply with Nevada law, which now allows same-day registration. But the secretary of state said such polling places would be “extremely limited” and set up to “ensure the safety of voters and poll workers alike.”

It’s true that a mail-in process creates potential security problems and tallying delays. But the latter is inevitable, given that, by law, election officials must count all absentee ballots that are postmarked on or before election day and arrive up to a week later. The former will require that Ms. Cegavske’s office and county election officials take seriously the need to confirm registration status, to ensure deadline compliance and to verify signatures. County registrars must also be on the lookout for ballot harvesting and other chicanery that could undermine the integrity of the balloting.

A mail-in election will be new to most Nevadans — just 9 percent of state voters cast such ballots in the 2018 general election — so Ms. Cegavske’s office recommends that, in order to avoid possible problems, new voters register as soon as possible and veteran voters check their status.

Potential issues aside, the secretary of state had little choice given the current environment but to prepare along these lines. Now it will be up to election officials to ensure the glitches remain minimal.

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