CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak ratcheted up tensions in Nevada’s increasingly partisan battle over election management on Tuesday when he rejected a request from its Republican secretary of state to require so-called “ballot harvesters” to register with her office.
In early August, Nevada’s Democratic-controlled Legislature voted to mail ballots to all active voters ahead of the November election to provide additional opportunities to voters concerned about coronavirus exposure at the polls. The body also approved emergency regulations to lift limits on a practice known as “ ballot harvesting, ” which permits third-parties to collect and return ballots on voters’ behalf.
Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske said in a letter sent Aug. 17 that additional safeguards were needed to secure the election. She proposed and drafted an emergency regulation to require third-party “ballot harvesters” who collect more than 10 ballots to submit paperwork detailing information including their political affiliations.
After blasting Sisolak and the Legislature for marginalizing her in discussions over pandemic election measures and not consulting her about the bill, Cegavske acknowledged it was her job to enforce laws rather than make them. She said election officials would be able to investigate “any illegal activity” associated with ballot harvesting with the information required by her proposed regulation.
Sisolak fired back Tuesday in a letter to Cegavske saying there is no indication that the ballot collection rules would create an emergency that warranted “the adoption of an emergency regulation without public feedback.”
Mandating registration for third-party ballot collectors wouldn’t prevent the kind of fraud Cegavske and Republicans worry about, Sisolak said in his response, which was first reported by the Nevada Independent. He said Cegavske’s use of the term “ballot harvester” was overtly partisan and said her warning “echoes the voter suppression rhetoric being heard on the national stage.”
Cegavske said in a statement Tuesday in response to Sisolak that the governor had used his emergency powers for less dire situations, including by calling a special session to address criminal justice and mining taxes. She said she was disappointed the governor had decided not to adopt her proposed regulation, but remained committed to ensuring a fair election.
National Republicans, including President Donald Trump, have rebuked the state’s decision to allow ballot harvesters.
Earlier this month, Trump’s reelection campaign filed a lawsuit claiming the law compromised the integrity of the election.
Sam Metz is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in newsrooms to report on under-covered issues.