ELECTIONS

Nevada is now the sixth state to move to a primarily mail-in election system after lawmakers approved legislation that will require election officials to send mail ballots to nearly all registered voters starting in 2022.

AB321 codifies many of the large-scale mail balloting provisions temporarily adopted by state lawmakers over the summer in the form of AB4 — a measure that activated large-scale mail balloting during states of emergency and loosened restrictions on turning in ballots for other people. 

The bill will allow voters to opt out of being mailed a ballot by providing written notice to their local or county election clerk, and the measure maintains certain minimum requirements for in-person polling places. Inactive voters, who are legally registered to vote but don’t have a current address on file with election officials, will not be sent a mail ballot.

The legislation modifies several of the deadlines in place for the 2020 election — shortening the timeframe from seven to four days after an election when mail ballots postmarked by Election Day can be accepted. There is a reduction of seven to six days in time for voters to fix issues on their mail ballot (a process called “signature cure”). 

It also shortens the time for election officials to finish counting mail ballots after Election Day from nine days to seven days. It also requires the secretary of state’s office to enter into an agreement with the State Registrar of Vital Statistics to cross check the list of registered voters in the state with a list of deceased individuals.

The bill also explicitly authorizes election clerks to use electronic devices in signature verification, requires more training on signature verification by staff and adopts a handful of other provisions aimed at beefing up election security measures — including daily audits on electronic checking of signatures.

Other major election structural changes that advanced this session include AB422, a measure aimed at centralizing voter registration recordkeeping that is currently distributed among the 17 counties to a state-led, top-down system. AB432 expands existing automatic voter registration systems in place at the DMV to other state agencies, including Medicaid and the state health exchange.

Legislators also advanced a measure discarding the arcane presidential caucus format in favor of a primary, and attempting to move Nevada further up in the presidential nominating process. The bill, AB126, won’t take effect until the 2024 presidential primaries.

Not all Democrat-backed election bills passed. A measure allowing for straight-ticket voting (SB292) was amended in the final hours of session to remove those provisions as part of the negotiations on a mining tax bill. The measure modifies the appointment process for U.S. Senators (requirement that any vacancy be filled by a member of the same political party) and legislative seats, giving individual caucus leaders and not county commissions the power to appoint replacement lawmakers. It also repeals sections of state law governing political party organization and raises the requirements for minor political parties to make it on to the ballot.