Deputy Secretary Of State Wayne Thorley On What Nevada’s Elections Bill Does And Doesn’t Do

Aug 13, 2020

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A bill passed by Nevada lawmakers during a special session that calls for mail-in ballots to be sent to all active registered voters when an election comes in the wake of a statewide emergency or disaster declaration has stirred a flurry of reaction, all the way up to President Donald Trump.

The bill AB4, which passed on party lines with Republicans opposed and was signed into law last week by Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, will affect the forthcoming general election in which the presidential race is on the ballot. It comes on the heels of a mostly mail primary election in June that saw 30 percent turnout — high for a primary — and more than 98 percent of voters using the mail-in option.

The measure:

  • Calls for at least 35 in-person early voting sites, and at least 100 vote centers on Election Day in Clark County
  • Calls for at least 15 in-person early voting sites, and at least 25 vote centers on Election Day in Washoe County
  • Calls for at least one in-person early voting site, and at least one vote center on Election Day in other counties, and
  • Calls for ballots to be mailed to the approximately 1.6 million active registered Nevada voters, but not the approximately 300,000 additional registered voters who are considered “inactive”

The number of in-person vote centers in Clark County on Election Day in 2018 was about 175, and Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria expects the county will have 159 sites this November, well above the bill’s threshold. Washoe County had about 85 in-person polling places on Election Day 2018.

The bill also authorizes more people to return ballots on behalf of other people with their permission — a practice sometimes known as “ballot harvesting” that has raised concerns about pressure or fraud and was opposed by Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican. Certain provisions — but not the ballot harvesting issue — were cited in a Republican-backed lawsuit filed on August 4.

To answer questions about what the bill will change about the forthcoming election, Deputy Secretary of State for Elections Wayne Thorley sat down with the IndyMatters podcast on August 4.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Q: What does this bill change about ballot collection or ballot harvesting?

A: Any voter can authorize any other person to return their ballot on their behalf. It doesn't have to be a designated family member. It can be someone else that lives with them. Could be a care worker, it could even be a political party operative, a neighbor, anybody that they authorize. 

There's also provision in the bill that allows voters with disabilities, voters who are 65 years or older, or voters who cannot read and write to ask someone to assist them in marking and signing their ballot. If you do that, then you have to note on the ballot return envelope that you assisted somebody and then you also have to submit a written statement to the county letting them know that you assisted that voter too. But that's only on if you assist the voter with marking or signing their ballot. 

If all you do is assist the voter in returning their ballot, you don't have to register or note that anywhere. 

Q: Do you have to fall into a special category of being a vulnerable person to have someone else turn in the ballot on your behalf? Can I have my friend turn in my ballot?

A: You could as long as you authorize [your friend] to do that.

Q: And there is a penalty in the law if my friend doesn't return my ballot for me?

A: If you give your ballot to someone else to return on your behalf, and it is more than three days before the election, that person has no more than three days to return the ballot for you. If you give it to someone to return on your behalf, and within three days of the deadline, the Election Day deadline to turn in ballots, they just have to turn it in before the deadline. If they fail to turn it in within that time frame, then there is a criminal penalty.

Visit The Nevada Independent for the complete story.