By SAM METZ AP/Report for America
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Election officials in two rural Nevada counties mailed voting materials to all active voters in their jurisdictions that contained proofreading errors. Neither error will affect eligibility or election procedures, state election officials said.
In Humboldt County, the return envelope sent to voters along with their ballots contained a reference to “White Pine County,” KOLO 8 News Now reported Friday. In Lyon County, the ballot instructions erroneously stated that only a voter or designated family member could return a ballot on someone’s behalf.
The voting materials containing errors were sent to more than 47,000 voters due to a new law passed by the Legislature directing election officials to mail ballots to all active voters ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
The law was designed to accommodate voters reluctant to vote in person amid the pandemic and, after its passage, became ensnared in partisan controversy.
Republicans, all the way up to President Donald Trump, blasted the Democratic-controlled Legislature for what they called an unnecessary change. They said a provision that expanded who could collect and return a ballot on a voter’s behalf would lead to so-called “ballot harvesting” and could compromise the election’s integrity.
County clerks accustomed to relatively few requests for mail-in ballots have had to adjust their procedures as they prepare to send more than 3 million to voters throughout the state.
In Humboldt County, 8,144 ballots were mailed to active voters who had registered by Sept. 18.
Humboldt County Clerk Tami Rae Spero said Pro-Vote, the vendor it contracts with the print election materials, had provided a template for the return envelopes and, in the review process, she had missed one reference to White Pine County.
“We didn’t catch that reference in the affirmation language. It was a really busy week,” Spero said.
All other references to Humboldt County — both on the ballot and return envelope — are correct. Voters can use the envelopes without fear of having their ballots disqualified, Spero said. They can chose to scratch out and write “Humboldt County” on their return envelopes, but don’t have to. Additionally, Humboldt County will send replacement envelopes to all voters “early next week,” Spero said.
Humboldt County voters can also bring their ballots to the county clerk and request an “in house” envelope or vote in-person, either early or on Election Day, Spero said.
In Lyon County, 38,907 ballots were sent to voters in late September. The ballots and return envelopes contain no errors, but an accompanying ballot instruction sheet contained outdated information on who is eligible to collect and return a ballot on another voter’s behalf.
Lyon County Clerk Nikki Bryan said she had missed the instructions when she approved the proof copy sent to KHN, the Washington state-based company the county uses to print ballots.
The instructions state that only a voter or designated family member can return a ballot on someone’s behalf, reflecting Nevada law before the Legislature revised it in August. Under the new rules, designated individuals can return ballots on other voters’ behalf regardless of if they are family members or not.
Bryan said new ballot instructions were being sent to voters on Monday and Tuesday.
Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske acknowledged the errors on Monday and assured voters that neither would affect their ability to vote, either in person or by mail.
“The ballot material errors in these two counties have no effect on whether their mail ballot will be accepted and counted,” she said in a statement. “The mail ballots that were sent to registered voters in both counties are accurate and can be used by those voters if they want to vote by mail.”
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 local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.