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VICTOR JOECKS: Lombardo picks a fight on election integrity

If Gov. Joe Lombardo gets his way, the nation no longer will have to wait days to learn the winners of close elections in Nevada. Don’t expect legislative Democrats to make that a priority.

Lombardo’s election reform bill, Senate Bill 405, recently dropped. A few years ago, some of the proposals wouldn’t have raised eyebrows. For instance, he wants to allow voters to request mail ballots for any reason but roll back universal mail ballots. The bill limits ballot harvesting.

Other proposals have worked well in states around the country. The governor’s legislation would require photo ID to vote. The DMV would provide a free voter identification card to those who couldn’t afford one. Mail ballots would have to be returned by the close of voting on Election Day. Voters returning mail ballots would have to provide the last four digits of their driver’s license, identification card or Social Security number. That would provide more security than the error-prone signature verification process.

It’s a great piece of legislation. And unlike Lombardo’s school discipline bill, it doesn’t contain any poison pills.

Lombardo’s own election is Exhibit A for why Nevada needs an improved process. He held a lead, but it took several days to confirm his victory. The election was on a Tuesday, but former Gov. Steve Sisolak didn’t concede until Friday night.

Other Republican candidates had leads on election night but ended up losing. The most notable was U.S. Senate candidate Adam Laxalt. He led for days but ended up about 8,000 votes behind Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. Drew Johnson, Republican candidate for a Clark County Commission seat, also saw his election night lead evaporate.

Surprising endings are great in books and movies but not in hard-fought elections. Voters should know by Wednesday morning who won all but the closest contests. This can be done.

Florida has seven times more people than Nevada, but it usually manages to tabulate results, even in tight races, by election night. Nevada, on the other hand is still counting votes days later. The main culprit is that mail ballots in Nevada must be counted if they’re received up to four days after Election Day.

Democrats aren’t interested in fixing any of this. Assemblywoman and Nevada State Democratic Party Chair Daniele Monroe-Moreno accused the governor of “rolling back voting rights.” She said, “Lombardo is more concerned with scoring political points by emboldening election deniers than giving Nevadans a voice at the ballot box.”

That’s laughable. If Lombardo’s plan became law, voters could request an absentee ballot for any reason, vote early or vote on Election Day. If people still couldn’t be bothered to vote, that’s on them.

It would be nice to think an important issue such as this will be decided on the merits, but it won’t be. It’s going to come down to political considerations.

Lombardo’s team released polling showing voters support these proposals by wide margins. You can see the win-win scenario Lombardo hopes to create. Either Democrats agree to improve Nevada’s election process, or he pounds them politically. This would also be a great issue for Republican legislative candidates to use.

It’s a good strategy if Lombardo is willing to follow through. He has the biggest megaphone in the state. His other tool is the veto pen. If Democrats won’t play ball with his priorities, he shouldn’t sign theirs. Unfortunately, he has given away much of his leverage by proposing massive spending increases, particularly for education.

Lombardo’s bill shows he knows how to pick a smart political battle. But winning will require fighting aggressively and deploying his full arsenal.

Contact Victor Joecks at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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