Sisolak rejects four bills including legislative ethics commissions and housing discrimination changes

Gov. Steve Sisolak said late Friday he vetoed four bills passed during the recently concluded Legislature, including measures that would have created legislative ethics commissions, amended Nevada’s housing discrimination laws, revised the state’s tourism improvement districts and established a dental oversight committee.

He wrote four letters to Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske informing her of his decision to veto the bills.

The bills will be returned to their house of origin in the 2023 Legislature where lawmakers could override any of the vetoes by a two-thirds vote.

The bills Sisolak rejected were:

Assembly Bill 65, which passed by split votes in both the Assembly and Senate, made changes to provisions overseeing ethics in government; however, an amendment that was adopted would have created new legislative ethics commissions for each house. That amendment, Sisolak said, changed his view of the bill.

“I want to be very clear that I support the majority of the sections of this bill,” the governor said in the letter. However, the amendment converted the bill “from a mostly housekeeping measure into a significant policy change.”

The separate commissions that would have investigated and adjudicated complaints against lawmakers and staffers weren’t needed, Sisolak surmised. He said the Nevada Ethics Commission already administers those matters.

“Having a single body handle these issues ensures uniformity and fairness,” Sisolak said. He noted that separate legislative ethics commissions were abolished in 1985 and consolidated into the current Nevada Ethics Commission structure.

Senate Bill 254, which passed by split votes in both the Assembly and Senate, would have amended the state’s housing discrimination laws to reflect federal regulations. The change would have allowed the Nevada Equal Rights Commission to investigate and enforce fair housing rights under federal law. The bill also limited the use of criminal background checks and criminal history as a reason for a landlord to refuse an applicant.

Sisolak said the changes were “good intentioned,” but could ultimately deprive Nevada residents of “superior, cost-free fair house enforcement” available through federal government agencies. He said the bill also imposed restrictions on a landlord’s ability to choose who rents their property. 

“Although I understand the noble purposes behind SB254, the bill is drafted in such a way that it could impose substantial liability on individual landlords and yet not achieve one of its major goals,” Sisolak said.

Assembly Bill 368, which was unanimously passed in both houses, would have revised how projects would be financed within a tourism improvement district. The bill required additional reporting on taxes collected from businesses.

Sisolak said the bill “is contrary to the goals of restarting our economy, improving our infrastructure, and creating jobs.” The governor said he didn’t want to remove “any of the tools local governments can use to encourage and generate economic development.”

Senate Bill 391, which was unanimously approved in the Senate but passed by a split vote in the Assembly, would have established a committee to work with the State Dental Officer governing teledentistry for advising dentists administering medical care during an emergency.

The bill also would have exempted the committee from adhering to Nevada’s Open Meeting Law when there was an emergency or disaster, which Sisolak “strongly” opposed.

“I support the provisions of the bill that would allow for use of teledentistry to bring dental care to more Nevadans, especially in the rural areas,” Sisolak said. “Unfortunately, however, I cannot support this bill because of the provisions that create a new committee governing the practice of dentistry during an emergency.”

Sisolak celebrates bills that expand voting access during ceremonial signing

Gov. Steve Sisolak on Friday held a ceremonial signing of a handful of bills designed to make casting ballots easier in Nevada, marking a deviation from other states where lawmakers have passed more restrictive voting laws.

The bill-signing ceremony at the East Las Vegas Community Center kicked off the last day for the governor to pen his name on bills passed during the 81st Legislature. The five bills, a couple of which he had already signed, are all election-related:

  • AB121 allows people with disabilities to vote using an electronic system created for uniformed military members and other voters living overseas.
  • AB321 permanently expands mail-in voting while letting voters opt out of receiving a mail ballot, and it also gives Indian reservations or colonies more time to request the establishment of a polling place within its boundaries.
  • AB422 implements a top-down voter registration system, moving away from the existing setup that involves 17 county clerks maintaining their own systems and transmitting voter registration information to the secretary of state’s office.
  • AB432 expands automatic voter registration to other state or tribal agencies, such as those designated by the Department of Health and Human Services that receive Medicaid applications and the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange. 
  • AB126 moves the state to a presidential primary system, ending the use of the caucus.

Sisolak noted that lawmakers in other states have introduced 389 bills that would restrict voting rights, and 20 have been signed into law. He called it an “assault on one of the key tenets of our democracy — the right to vote.”

“But today, in the great state of Nevada, we are so proud that we are sending a strong message that the Silver State is not only bucking the national trend of infringing on voter rights — rather, we’re doing everything we can to expand access to the poll while ensuring our elections are secure and fair,” Sisolak added.

The bill-signings come roughly seven months after a contentious election season, during which Nevada’s Republican secretary of state, Barbara Cegavske, received an avalanche of threats and harassment after unfounded allegations of widespread voter fraud following former President Donald Trump’s loss. Because of the pandemic, Nevada lawmakers expanded mail-in voting for the 2020 presidential election.

Gov. Steve Sisolak and Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson celebrate the signing of election-related bills at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Friday, June 11, 2021. (Mikayla Whitmore/The Nevada Independent)

Sisolak lauded AB321 for permanently enshrining mail-in voting in the Silver State, which he said gives voters more options. He also commended Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson (D-Las Vegas) for being a “tenacious fighter” when it comes to preserving and expanding voting rights.

Frierson emphasized that AB321 doesn’t eliminate any voting options — people can vote by mail, deposit their ballots in drop-off boxes or vote in person.

“These are all options and individual liberties that Nevadans have come to enjoy,” he said.

The governor and state lawmakers also celebrated the state’s conversion to a presidential primary, which could place Nevada ahead of New Hampshire and Iowa to become the first nominating state in the nation. But that’s subject to approval from the Democratic National Committee. AB126, which moves Nevada away from a caucus, establishes that presidential primary elections would occur on the first Tuesday in February of presidential election years.

Sisolak touted Nevada’s diverse population as a reason for why it should lead the primary process, saying it “undoubtedly” represents the composition of the country.

The governor has spent the week in Las Vegas, attending a variety of bill-signing ceremonies to usher new measures into law. The legislative session ended at midnight on Memorial Day.

Secretary of state opens up about threats she received after no evidence of ‘widespread’ voter fraud found

Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske opened up Wednesday about her experience on the job after the November presidential election sparked allegations of voter fraud in Nevada, as well as about threatening emails and phone calls she and her family and staff received.

Cegavske’s appearance at the Hispanics in Politics monthly meeting in Las Vegas marked a rare public appearance by the secretary of state after the contentious election season in which she pushed back on allegations that there was widespread voter fraud. She told The Nevada Independent in an interview after her speech that the extent of the threats was “saddening” and was not something she wanted her staff to go through. 

She also said the level of threats, harassment and privacy concerns led her to unplug the phone landline in her home. 

When asked if she had been changed by the experience, Cegavske said the level of threats to family and staff, the involvement of national news and cyber security has taken a toll. 

The secretary of state also said that the fallout goes beyond threats. One website in particular (which The Nevada Independent is not naming for safety concerns) has targeted her along with other U.S. election officials through doxing, which is publishing otherwise private information with malicious intent. The website has been removed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation three times, Cegavske said. 

She also has received disapproval directly from the Republican Party after her office publicly stated that there was no evidence found of widespread voter fraud in Nevada in the 2020 presidential election, even though it was alleged by former President Donald Trump and Nevada Republicans. In April, the Nevada Republican Central Committee voted to censure Cegavske over claims that her office failed to do its job. 

Cegavske defended herself during the interview by stating that she was only following the law. 

In her speech at the group’s gathering, she acknowledged that in every election there are going to be instances of fraud, whether it is accidental (such as people with Alzheimer's who forget they already voted) or intentional (such as people attempting to bypass the citizenship requirement). But she said her office found no proof that the election was manipulated.

In March, the state Republican Party brought forward nearly 123,000 alleged fraudulent votes cast in the 2020 election as evidence for the secretary of state to review. By late April, Cegavske announced that her office still found no “evidentiary support” of widespread voter fraud.  

She also informed the Hispanic in Politics meeting attendees about bills passed in the recent legislative session that affect the election process, including AB321, which permanently expands mail voting, AB126, which turns Nevada’s presidential caucus into a primary election, and AB422, which implements a top-down voter registration system. 

Cegavske publicly asked during the event not to be recorded.

State approves first of four state worker collective bargaining agreements, though many hurdles remain

Someone affixing a stamp on documents

Statewide elected officials including Gov. Steve Sisolak have granted preliminary approval of the first ever collective bargaining contract with state employees, 

Sisolak and members of the state Board of Examiners (composed of the governor, attorney general and secretary of state) voted 2-1 on Tuesday to approve the collective bargaining agreement between the state and the union representing around 110 Category II law enforcement officers, a group of positions including criminal investigators and youth parole counselors. Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, voted against the motion.

The approved contract runs through the end of June 2023, covering everything from management and union rights, recordkeeping, leave policies, employee evaluation and compensation. It includes a 2 percent pay raise for all workers in the bargaining unit, plus a one-time bonus — employees with five to 15 years of experience will see a $500 bonus and those with 15 years of experience will receive a $1,000 bonus.

Governor’s Office of Finance Director Susan Brown said during the meeting that the total cost to the state for those enhanced compensation totals will cost the state around $418,000 — the 2 percent pay bump comes with a $277,000 price tag, and the one-time payments costing no more than $141,000. Those costs will now head to the Legislature as budget amendments, which need to be approved before the session ends on May 31.

“Collective bargaining has allowed for state employees to have a larger seat at the table and I’m proud to see the first agreement approved and on its way to the Legislature,” Sisolak said in a statement after the vote.

Cegavske opposed the motion because, she said, she was concerned about cost and said the Department of Administration, which handles the state’s collective bargaining negotiations, did not answer all of her staff’s questions on the proposed contract.

Department of Administration Director Laura Freed — who estimated that members of the state’s bargaining team have spent “well over 400 hours” in negotiations — said the secretary of state’s chief of staff did not respond to invites to two of the three training sessions held by the state, and said the state wanted to keep negotiating teams on the smaller side — noting that the secretary of state’s office only had 6 employees in the bargaining unit.

“We are regretful that the staff with the secretary of state's office feels as they do, but we can demonstrate that we made an effort to include them,” she said.

But the contract approval is only one of four that the state needs to complete over the coming week — representing ongoing negotiations with six additional bargaining units, represented by three other unions. They include:

  • Labor, maintenance and custodial (1,551 employees in the bargaining unit); professional healthcare (1,234); non-professional healthcare (748); and Category III peace officers/corrections officers (1,769). All four are represented by AFSCME Local 4041.
  • Category I Peace Officers (735), represented by the Nevada Police Union 
  • Firefighters (55), represented by Battle Born Fire Fighters Association.

Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in Behind the Bar, The Nevada Independent’s newsletter dedicated to comprehensive coverage of the 2021 Legislature. Sign up for the newsletter here.

Democrat, former Athletic Commissioner Aguilar jumps in race for secretary of state

Sign in front of the Nevada State Capitol building

Attorney and former state Athletic Commissioner Cisco Aguilar is launching a campaign for secretary of state, the latest candidate to hop in the race to replace term-limited incumbent Barbara Cegavske.

Aguilar, a Democrat, rolled out his campaign on Tuesday touting endorsements from a host of high-profile Democrats and education advocates, including former Secretary of State Ross Miller, Lt. Gov. Kate Marshall, philanthropist Beverly Rogers and tennis legend Andre Agassi. (Aguilar previously worked as general counsel for Agassi’s management company, Agassi Graf.)

In a statement, Aguilar said he wanted to run for the seat to “defend every eligible American’s right to vote,” remove barriers to voter participation and to make elections as transparent as possible to “maintain the public trust.”

“We have an opportunity to become more efficient as a government, reduce bureaucracy, and enhance access to services that are too often out of reach for many Nevadans,” Aguilar said in a statement. “Our recovery as a state is dependent on empowering our small businesses, reaching out to some of the hardest hit communities, and restoring Nevadans’ faith in government.”

Aguilar spent eight years as a member of the state’s Athletic Commission, which oversees and licenses boxing and other unarmed combat. He also is the founding chairman of Cristo Rey St. Viator, a college preparatory high school.

Two Republicans have also announced intentions to run for the statewide office. Sparks City Councilman Kris Dahir announced a bid for the office in February, and former Assemblyman Jim Marchant has also announced plans to run for the seat.

Cegavske, a Republican, won re-election to the office in 2018 over former Democratic Assemblyman Nelson Araujo by a narrow margin, fewer than 6,500 votes out of nearly a million cast. Cegavske was the only Republican candidate to win statewide in the 2018 midterms, but has drawn criticism from many in her own party (including an official censure) for her assertion that no large-scale fraud occurred in the state’s contentious 2020 election.

The office of secretary of state is likely best known for its role in managing and overseeing state elections, but the office is also granted authority over commercial recordings, notaries public and the securities division in the state.

Cegavske: No 'evidentiary support’ among NV GOP claims that 2020 election was plagued by widespread fraud

Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske’s office has finished its review of the Nevada Republican Party’s alleged evidence of massive voter fraud in the 2020 election and found the concerns “do not amount to evidentiary support for the contention that the 2020 general election was plagued by widespread voter fraud.”

In a 13-page report released Wednesday, Cegavske’s office submitted a full response denying many of the state Republican Party’s continued assertions that the 2020 election in Nevada, which was largely conducted by mail voting because of the COVID-19 pandemic, saw rampant voter fraud.

“Our investigation revealed that these allegations and others are based largely upon an incomplete assessment of voter registration records and lack of information concerning the processes by which these records are compiled and maintained,” Deputy Secretary of State Mark Wlaschin wrote in a response letter. 

The state Republican Party — whose central committee voted to censure Cegavske, a Republican, during a meeting earlier this month — brought four boxes of what it claimed was evidence of nearly 123,000 fraudulent votes cast in the 2020 election to the secretary of state’s office in early March.

Cegavske — whose office has continually stated that Nevada has received no evidence of “wide-spread” fraud in the 2020 election — wrote in the response letter that her office had clocked more than 125 hours of staff time in documenting and investigating the voter fraud complaints.

The four boxes of material and alleged 123,000 fraudulent votes were condensed down into 3,963 individual election integrity violation reports, grouped by category of alleged election violation or type of fraudulent vote. Out of those reports, the office said it largely covered ground that was already under investigation by election officials and law enforcement, or relied on a misunderstanding or lack of full understanding of the state’s voter registration system.

“It was essential that we took the time to fully evaluate each complaint and to make a determination based on the merits of each report,” Cegavske said in a statement.

The report goes into detail addressing and debunking allegations of thousands of noncitizens or deceased persons voting in the 2020 election, while taking care to note when the office had referred the small number of potential cases of fraud to law enforcement.

For non-citizens, the Nevada Republican Party complaint identified 3,987 persons who may have not been citizens who were recorded as casting a ballot in the 2020 election. The secretary of state’s office retraced those steps by requesting personal information of individuals who presented an immigration document while obtaining a drivers’ license from the DMV over the last five years — the same basis of the state Republican Party’s complaint.

The report states that the DMV’s list included 110,000 individuals, with about 5,300 listed as active registered voters (of which 4,057 had an active voter history for the 2020 election).

However, the secretary of state’s office said that public records showed more than 40,600 documented immigrants had become naturalized citizens between 2015 and 2019, and that on average three years had passed between the date of the DMV transaction and the 2020 election. 

“Without specific evidence to establish that identified individuals were foreign nationals when they voted in the November 3 election, there is nothing further that can be investigated,” the report stated. “In summary, the generalized information acquired from DMV cannot serve as a basis for an investigation into alleged voter fraud.”

The complaint also pushed back on state Republican claims that more than 1,500 deceased voters were recorded as casting a ballot by mail in the 2020 election. The secretary of state’s office said it contacted the Office of Vital Statistics in March to cross-check the names of the alleged deceased voters, but found that only 10 of the 1,506 records matched deceased individuals.

“This immediately raised questions about the quality of the information that spurred this allegation,” the office said in the report, while noting it had referred the 10 deceased individuals from the list to law enforcement.

One of the larger categories of alleged fraud (21,142 individuals who were accused of double voting) was also addressed in the report. Of that total, around 2,800 were shown to have only cast one ballot, but may have had issues with duplicate registration or data entry errors.

For the remaining 18,300 alleged double-voters, the secretary of state’s office said it compared the list to the office’s “Multiple Votes Cast” report, an internal query conducted after every election to examine every Nevadan’s voter history to determine if a person had cast more than one ballot. That “Multiple Votes Cast” report identified 1,778 voter records that “required reconciliation,” and the secretary of state’s report states that 10 of those voter records were forwarded to law enforcement for further investigation.

The secretary of state’s office said it found no matches between the flagged “Multiple Votes Cast” report and the list of alleged double-voters provided by the state Republican Party. 

“While the first lines of data identified individuals who had matching birthdates, addresses, and similar names (e.g., Edward vs. Edwin), the remaining 18,314 pairs of individuals have distinct differences in their names, addresses, birthdates, and other information suggesting that they are not the same person,” the report stated. “For example, many of the individuals seem to have been matched on such minimal information as ‘birth year’ and ‘street address’ so there are a number of alleged ‘double voters’ who merely live on the same street as someone else born in the same year. “

The Nevada Republican Party also claimed that more than 8,800 voters had listed a commercial address as their registration address on file, but the secretary of state’s report pointed to a section of state law allowing persons to list a commercial address if they actually live there.

Using a statistical sampling method, the office found many of the “commercial” addresses on file to be apartment complexes, RV or mobile home parks, long-term rental hotels or other addresses with housing options. The office found nine addresses without an attached living space, and forwarded the information to county clerks for reconciliation.

The office provided fewer details on claims that the Nevada Native Vote Project allegedly violated state and federal law by offering gift cards and other benefits to encourage increased voter turnout among tribal communities — writing simply that the “alleged violation is currently under investigation by law enforcement.”

A representative of the state Republican Party did not immediately return an email seeking comment on Wednesday.

Nevada Republicans vote to censure SOS Cegavske over voter fraud allegations

The Nevada Republican Party Central Committee has voted to censure the state’s GOP secretary of state, Barbara Cegavske, over claims that her office failed to do its job and “put the reliability of our elections in Nevada in question.”

Members of the central committee voted to approve the censure on a 126-112 vote on Saturday during the party’s spring meeting in Carson City, sources told The Nevada Independent. The censure, which was amended before a vote, originally banned Cegavske from party endorsements or resources for “the intense dishonor her failures brought upon the Nevada Republican Party.”

A cover letter obtained by The Nevada Independent reiterates that the state party brought forward four boxes of evidence purporting to show tens of thousands of alleged examples of voter fraud that allegedly occurred in the 2020 election. The letter states that the state party saw a “surge in communications with sometimes vulgar messages” by individual Republicans saying they had left the party “claiming we did nothing to ensure voter integrity.”

“The irresponsible messaging of the Nevada Secretary of State, claiming, without investigating, that this election was error free, causing these attacks on our Nevada Republican Party,” the cover letter states.

Cegavske, in a statement Sunday morning, pushed back against the premise of the censure:

"Regrettably, members of my own political party have decided to censure me simply because they are disappointed with the outcome of the 2020 election," she said. "My job is to carry out the duties of my office as enacted by the Nevada Legislature, not carry water for the state GOP or put my thumb on the scale of democracy. Unfortunately, members of my own party continue to believe the 2020 general election was wrought with fraud - and that somehow I had a part in it - despite a complete lack of evidence to support that belief. Regardless of the censure vote today by the Nevada Republican Party Central Committee, I will continue in my efforts to oversee secure elections in Nevada and to restore confidence in our elections, confidence which has been destroyed by those falsely claiming the 2020 general election produced widespread fraud."

The censure repeats various claims of voter fraud in Nevada made by the Trump campaign and state Republican Party, many of which originated from election challenges that lost in state court last year. Reasons for the censure are listed as a “failure to investigate election fraud, her dismissive public statements regarding election integrity concerns and her failure to ensure compliance with Nevada and federal election law.”

The censure resolution originally cited a section of state law that deals with the removal of state and local party committee members, not rank-and-file registered party members. But central committee members voted to remove that section referring to removing Cegavske from the party from the resolution prior to the vote.

Cegavske’s office has publicly stated that the state has received no evidence of “wide-spread” fraud in the 2020 election. Her office also publicly responded to the state party’s drop off of alleged evidence, disputing the number of total Election Integrity Reports filed and promising that staff will “conduct a detailed examination of these reports.”

Cegavske, who previously served in the Assembly and state Senate, was the only Republican to win a statewide race in the 2018 midterm elections, narrowly beating Democratic candidate Nelson Araujo.

Bipartisan statements of support for Cegavske began to pour in after the vote and on Sunday morning, including from Gov. Steve Sisolak, Attorney General Aaron Ford, Treasurer Zach Conine, Rep. Steven Horsford, state Sens. Heidi Gansert and Marilyn Dondero Loop and Assemblywoman Jill Tolles. During the meeting, sources said, Republican National Committeewoman Michele Fiore, who had said after the election that Donald Trump won, came to Cegavske's defense. State GOP Chairman Michael McDonald left the dais during the debate and did not speak.

"During its meeting this weekend, the Nevada Republican Party had a healthy debate regarding November’s election and the role of our Secretary of State," state GOP Executive Director Jessica Hanson said in a statement. "While the vote to censure Secretary Cegavske passed narrowly, what unites all Nevada Republicans is their commitment to ensure the Silver State has the safest and fairest elections in the country and the Nevada Republican Party will work day and night to turn this state into the model for election integrity. The Nevada Republican Party holds our elected officials to a high standard. As such, today the party sent a clear message that our officials must work for the people and we demand that our representatives at all levels of government uphold their Oath of Office."

This story was updated at 8:45 AM on 4/11/21 with a statement from the secretary of state and also at 10:20 AM with a summary of statements of support for Barbara Cegavske and removal of the words "and dissociate" from the opening paragraph to reflect the amended censure resolution that ultimately passed.

Here is the cover letter and the original resolution prepared for passage:

And here is the resolution that finally passed:

Most 2020 Nevada election integrity cases resolved without finding of fraud; recent Republican document drop under review

The vast majority of election complaint case files submitted to top Nevada election officials in the last six months regarding the 2020 election were closed without any findings that election laws were violated, even as many Republicans continue to assert that the election was rife with fraud and stolen from former President Donald Trump.

A log obtained by The Nevada Independent through a public records request shows there were 298 election integrity case files submitted to the secretary of state’s office from the beginning of September through Tuesday. It does not characterize the complexity of any individual case — such as whether a complainant suggested a single improper vote or submitted a spreadsheet alleging thousands of suspicious votes — or offer names of complainants or the accused.

Of those case files, 255 — or 86 percent — have been closed either because no violation was found, the underlying issue was resolved, or the case was referred to investigatory authority in the secretary of state’s office.

Only 41 of the roughly 300 files submitted for the 2020 election have not been resolved, which includes 15 submitted by the Nevada Republican Party earlier this month (many entries in the log list out several thousand alleged examples of voter fraud). The GOP and the state had widely varied public descriptions of the scope of their submission, with the party saying it submitted 122,918 records, and the state categorizing it as fewer than 4,000 distinct reports.

The log shows basic information about Election Integrity Violation Reports received by the office, which is the public-facing complaint form that individuals can submit to the secretary of state’s office identifying alleged instances of fraud or violations of election law. 

A single report can contain multiple examples of alleged “fraud” or issues, which likely explains the variance between the number of reports that the state and Republican Party say were submitted.

The document gives a fuller view of the work that Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske’s office has done to investigate largely unsupported allegations of voter fraud and irregularities in the 2020 election — a line that Trump and prominent state and national Republican Party officials have repeated since the election was called for President Joe Biden.

The secretary of state’s office has maintained for months that it has not seen any evidence of widespread voter fraud that could meaningfully affect Trump’s 33,596-vote loss to Biden in the state, but says it is still investigating several “isolated” cases of potential fraud.

Among the findings in the log:

  • Seven of the submitted complaints were listed as “Referred to Securities” or “Currently with Securities” — meaning they had been referred out for potential action by law enforcement. Four of the complaints dealt with “campaign practices,” two dealt with “voter fraud” and one dealt with “misconduct.”
  • About 75 of the complaints are labeled as “data base concerns (voter history)” and all but one originated in the month of November. At that time, the secretary of state’s office was trying to clarify to the public why an online system might not have reflected that a person’s vote had been counted; the system was not updated until the election was certified, even if the ballot was already counted.
  • Two complaints of “ballot sent to deceased person” are shown as closed with no violation.
  • 35 complaints, filed at various points throughout the campaign season, deal with “campaign practices;” 27 of those are listed as resolved with no violation.
  • 52 of the resolved complaints are categorized as “voter fraud” with no further information listed. 
  • About a dozen complaints listed polling place concerns or irregularities, including two about poll worker attire.

In a press release issued Tuesday, the secretary of state’s office said it had inventoried, labeled and evaluated all election-related complaints submitted by the state Republican Party after a rally-style event two weeks ago. The office said the assessment revealed far fewer Election Integrity Violation Reports than the party advertised in a press release, all of which were filed by the chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, Michael McDonald, with several “already under investigation by law enforcement.”

A letter the secretary of state’s office sent to the Nevada GOP as a “receipt” on Tuesday, and that was obtained through a public records request, indicates the GOP had delivered in four boxes, a USB drive with 23 documents and spreadsheets, three business cards and 3,963 elections integrity violation reports. 

“We take every complaint seriously and will conduct a thorough and detailed examination of the information provided,” the letter said.

It also indicated that eight of the documents on the USB drive were sworn affidavits that had been redacted, and the secretary of state’s office requested unredacted versions as soon as possible. 

Details in the election violation report log and the response letter indicate that several of the affidavits appear to be copies of material or reports that the Trump campaign submitted to a state court as part of an election challenge seeking to have presidential results in the state overturned. All of the cases failed in court, though the party has released some of the affidavits or evidence originally filed under seal on its website.

In a response to Cegavske that was published Tuesday, the Nevada Republican Party said the secretary of state’s Tuesday statement is “validating our assertion that there is voter fraud in the 2020 election” and planned to follow up with emailed copies of “each and every complaint.”

“We need better transparency from our elected officials investigating these matters, especially with so many Nevadans questioning the integrity of our voting process,” the party said in an emailed statement Wednesday. “We hope that Secretary Cegavske finally demonstrates a commitment to the concept that no amount of voter fraud is acceptable in the great State of Nevada.”

To see a copy of the Election Integrity Violation Report log, please use the following link.

State proposes new system to potentially speed up voter verification during elections

The secretary of state’s office wants to transition from a county-led to a state-led top-down voter registration system that could speed up the time-consuming process of verifying that people who take advantage of a new same-day voter registration law haven’t already voted in the same election. 

The elections division has requested from the Legislature $1.5 million to start the process, although officials say the new system likely won’t be up and running for a few years – possibly even after the 2024 election. 

The agency’s push for a new top-down approach began about a year before the 2020 election, but it became evident after the November election just how inefficient the current bottom-up system can be. Nevada was the subject of jokes nationally because it took several days to count and clear tens of thousands of provisional ballots (those set aside to allow for verification of a voters’ eligibility), making it difficult to quickly project the winner of the presidential race. 

Currently, each of the state's 17 counties control and maintain their own voter registration databases, while the secretary of state’s office maintains yet another voter registration database consisting of all records compiled from each of the counties and updated daily. Details of the budget request were publicly discussed during a joint budget hearing last month.

A top-down voter registration system would provide a centralized statewide database and election management system with real-time voter information. Election officials say it would make fixing errors, checking for duplicate registrations and verifying voter eligibility faster and “seamless.” 

“Same day registration will be a lot more smoother because we will get that real time data,” Washoe County Assistant Registrar of Voters Heather Carmen said. “We will not have to issue provisional ballots to voters that same-day register, send up that report to the state, have the state compile it and then send it back down to the various county clerks, just to verify that that person hasn't already voted in another jurisdiction.”

The federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 required states to establish statewide voter registration databases. Databases are either “top-down” (maintained by the state with voter information supplied by counties) or “bottom-up” (maintained by counties with data provided to the state at regular intervals).

According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Nevada is one of just six states that has a bottom-up system.

HAVA was drafted and passed in response to irregularities in voting systems and processes during the 2000 presidential election. The program provides for replacing voting equipment, implementing a post-election audit system and upgrading election-related computer systems to address cyber vulnerabilities.

Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske has consistently denied that massive voter fraud occurred in the 2020 election, but still wants the top-down system in place because of its potentially increased efficiency and also to achieve better, faster connectivity between county and state records. 

Here’s how the new top-down system would work: When a voter moves from one county to another, the state elections clerk would look at the state’s master list and change the voter residency information. The individual’s vote history and verification signatures would immediately reflect their new residence, as opposed to having to cancel the voter registration in one county and start a new one in another. 

Although the agency is requesting $1.5 million for the biennium, costs of the transition to the top-down system are still unknown and might exceed the budgeted amount, especially in future budget cycles. But grants and federal funding may be available, and the agency will be looking to apply for them.

Before making the switch, Mark Wlaschin of the secretary of state’s Elections Division says the first step in the process is an assessment of Nevada's needs, requirements and laws, such as the bill authorizing automatic voter registration through the DMV, that a software company would need to consider when building and securing the system.

“It's not going to be more secure or less secure. There's still going to be the same precautions at the state level,” Carmen said. “We are also required to have multi-factor authentication when accessing our voter registration database and election management systems.”

Wlaschin says the agency has asked for advice from other states that have made the same transition. Most told him it is expensive and will take a few years to complete – and preferably should not be phased in during an election year, in order to be able to run enough tests – and also not to rush the process. 

The possibility that the new top-down system will be ready before the 2024 election remains unknown, but officials are hopeful. County election registrars are holding weekly meetings with the secretary of state's office, project managers and IT staff to discuss software system needs. 

In the meantime, future state elections will be carried out through the current bottom-up system.

“It's going to be a slow process, but it needs to be done thoroughly to make sure that it hits all the points that needs to be covered when running an election,” Carmen said. “We need to make sure that we find a system that is secure… It's going to take a little time, and that's okay. We want it to be right.”

Nevada seeks dismissal of Laxalt election lawsuit that claims noncitizens infiltrated state voter rolls

Attorneys for the state of Nevada are seeking the dismissal of a lawsuit against the secretary of state regarding voter roll maintenance, asserting that the court does not have jurisdiction over the subject matter and that the plaintiffs have misrepresented the secretary of state’s role in maintaining voter rolls.

In the motion to dismiss filed in the First Judicial Court in Carson City on Thursday, Gregory Zunino, deputy solicitor general for the state, wrote that the plaintiffs’ claim that Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske has failed to establish a system to verify citizenship in the state’s voter registration process was “demonstrably false.”

“Plaintiffs have no legal right to invoke this Court’s subject matter jurisdiction in their mission to seize partial control of the Office of the Secretary of State,” Zunino wrote.

The lawsuit, filed in December by former Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt, names three plaintiffs — former Republican Assemblyman Al Kramer, former Washoe County District Attorney Dick Gammick and Roger William Norman — who claim that the alleged failure of the secretary of state to keep noncitizens off the voter rolls caused their votes to be diluted and discounted because “noncitizens are on the voter rolls and have voted in the past.”

Zunino wrote that it is the counties, not the state, that maintain voter rolls, meaning the responsibility to remove noncitizens from the lists falls to the county clerks. He also noted that the secretary of state merely maintains a centralized database of voter information collected from the 17 county clerks.

The plaintiffs pointed to the state’s new automatic voter registration system, which has added thousands of new voters since last January, as a potential opportunity for noncitizens to be added to the voter roll.

However, the system does have protections against the registration of noncitizens, including a citizenship question on the primary Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) form. Zunino wrote in the state’s filing that following the 2018 election, Cegavske worked with the DMV and attorney general to develop procedures for filtering noncitizens out of the voter registration process, including the exclusion of Driver Authorization Card holders, who are commonly noncitizens, from the automatic registration process.

Zunino also questioned the plaintiffs’ choice of attorney, arguing that Laxalt, who previously served as counsel for Cegavske in his capacity as attorney general, presents “an appearance of impropriety and conflict” because the plaintiffs claim that they have relied exclusively upon “public” records.

“Plaintiffs’ counsel may have access to non-public and privileged information regarding the Secretary’s efforts to address DMV voter registration processes in 2017 and 2018,” he wrote. “Insofar as Plaintiffs have engaged an attorney who may possess information acquired from an attorney-client relationship, their choice of counsel is problematic.”

Zunino also wrote that the plaintiffs lack standing in the court and that their demands for systemic and routine checks on voter citizenship represent a matter of policy that should be considered by the Legislature rather than addressed by the District Court.

That argument stems in part from the plaintiffs’ inability to prove injury by way of vote dilution, as the plaintiffs represent just three of more than 1.4 million votes cast by Nevadans in the last election. Zunino wrote that the plaintiffs aired a generalized and speculative grievance that any voter could raise, meaning that the plaintiffs have not proven any specific injury needed for standing.

He further noted that the generalized grievance about the operation of government raises policy questions that should not be handled by the court, but should instead be addressed by legislators and executives.

This session, Republican legislators are pushing for election reforms, although officials of the Assembly Republican Caucus said the group’s official position is that the recent election was not “fraudulent.”

Assembly members John Ellison (R-Elko), Jim Wheeler (R-Minden) and Jill Dickman (R-Sparks) are sponsoring AB137, which would require proof of identity for voting in person. And several Republican legislators are sponsoring AB134, which would repeal a law that calls for widespread distribution of mail-in ballots to active voters during states of emergency.

Democratic leaders have expressed interest in making the broad distribution of mail-in ballots standard, even in non-emergency times, in order to ease participation in elections.