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KUNR Today: Washoe Co. primary ballots being mailed out, Utilities prepare for wildfire outages

A Dallas election worker holds a mail-in ballot on Oct. 15, 2020. Thousands of mail ballots are being rejected ahead of the upcoming Texas state primary.
LM Otero
An election worker holds a mail-in ballot on Oct. 15, 2020.

Read or listen to the news headlines for Friday, May 20, 2022.

Primary election ballots have been mailed out in Washoe County
By Gustavo Sagrero

Washoe County has begun sending out mail-in ballots for the primary election to registered voters' mailboxes who have not opted out. Once they’re filled out, voters can return them through the mail, or drop them off up until June 14, Election Day. The county is reminding voters if they received a mail-in ballot and want to vote in person instead, they need to bring their ballot in and surrender it to an election official or have their ID ready.

Elections officials urge voters to follow directions printed on the ballot. Putting more than one ballot in a return envelope will invalidate those votes. It’s also illegal to vote by mail, and then show up to vote later in person.

If Washoe County residents receive a ballot for someone else, election officials are asking residents to write “not at this address” on the envelope and to send it back to the Registrar of Voters office.

For a primary election in Nevada, registered voters can only cast a vote in their party’s races along with nonpartisan races while nonpartisan voters can only vote in nonpartisan races.

Abortion-friendly states prep for more patients if Roe falls
By The Associated Press

Reproductive rights advocates are planning to open new abortion clinics or expand the capacity of existing ones in states without restrictive abortion laws. This comes as a leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court opinion says justices could overturn the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

Some Democratic-led states in the West and the Northeast are proposing public money for an expected influx of people traveling from other places for abortions. A clinic in Memphis, Tennessee, plans to open an abortion facility in August in the southern Illinois city of Carbondale. Illinois has easy abortion access but is surrounded by more restrictive states.

Utilities brace for wildfire forced power outages
By Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

Wildfires in New Mexico are forcing power outages in parts of the state that could last for days or weeks, but utilities in the rest of the region are preparing for wildfires too. Utilities urge customers to sign up for text or email alerts in case of power outages.

That may be especially important for people in wildfire-prone areas. This is the first year Idaho Power has a system to preemptively turn off energy if fire risks are too high due to weather conditions.

“The outage is an effort basically to protect our customers, our communities, and equipment from wildfire,” said Angelique Rood, Idaho Power regional manager.

Utilities like NV Energy and Rocky Mountain Power do this too, usually after sending out alerts to customers. Beyond that, utilities are preparing for fires by wrapping poles in fire-resistant mesh and clearing brush. However, Rood said it’s also important for people to prepare for longer-term outages.

“That means finding ways to water livestock without electric pumps, places to store or refrigerate medications and ways to simply hold out when the lights go out,” she said.

Western lawmakers support introducing new water legislation 
By Emma Gibson, Mountain West News Bureau

Several Mountain West lawmakers are supporting the introduction of two water bills in Congress. One addresses water issues along the Rio Grande, one of the longest rivers in the country.

The Rio Grande Basin snakes through Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. Rep. Melanie Stansbury of New Mexico is the sponsor of the Rio Grande Water Security Act. If passed, she said the bill would bring the river’s water partners like those in New Mexico and Colorado together to manage it wisely.

“One of the things that we’re trying to do is bring an integrated approach where everyone has a seat at the table, where we’re looking at the river comprehensively and coming up with a 30-year plan for the river,” she said.

This is one of the many efforts of lawmakers trying to manage major water systems across the West amid extreme drought. The other new bill would centralize water data, like that of precipitation, water quality or soil moisture.

Biden forest plan stirs dispute over what counts as "old"
By The Associated Press

President Joe Biden's order to protect the nation's oldest woodlands is raising a simple but vexing question: When does a forest grow old? The answer could affect millions of acres of federally-managed forests where environmentalists want logging restricted as climate change, wildfires and other problems devastate vast forests.

Scientists say there's no simple formula for what's old - in part because growth rates among species can vary greatly. That's likely to complicate Biden's efforts to protect older forests as part of his faltering climate change fight, with key pieces stalled in Congress. Underlining the issue's urgency are wildfires that have killed thousands of California's giant sequoias in recent years.

For the first time, UNR’s Path to Independence students graduate alongside peers
By Gustavo Sagrero

At the University of Nevada, Reno’s recent commencement ceremonies, students from the Path to Independence program took part for the first time in walking alongside the rest of the graduating class. The program is geared for students with intellectual disabilities.

This year, five students graduated from the two-year program. During that time they’re tasked with a mix of coursework and building real-world experience through internships and part-time work. The goal is to orient students to be prepared to pursue jobs after graduation.

New rules about guns on movie sets fail in California
By The Associated Press

New rules about how and when actors can use guns on movie sets have failed to pass the California Legislature. Two bills did not advance out of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday. The bills were filed after a gun actor Alec Baldwin was holding went off and killed a cinematographer on a movie set in New Mexico last year.

Senate Appropriations Committee chair Anthony Portantino said he decided to hold both bills in committee after entertainment industry groups failed to reach a consensus on the proposals. Portantino said he would be willing to reconsider the bills should the groups reach an agreement.

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