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Nevada election official seeks more ballot harvesting oversight

Updated August 18, 2020 - 8:15 am

CARSON CITY — Nevada’s top election official wants a new emergency regulation that would add more oversight to the state’s newly passed law that allows for ballot harvesting amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske on Monday sent a request to Gov. Steve Sisolak for an emergency regulation that would require any person who returns 10 or more ballots at the direction of other voters to report to the secretary of state’s office and list any political, corporate or advocacy group with whom they are associated.

The regulation, Cegavske wrote in the request, “is needed to ensure the Secretary of State has the information necessary to investigate and stop illegal activity associated with ballot harvesting.”

Gov. Steve Sisolak signed Assembly Bill 4, which allows for collection of ballots by people who are not related to the voter — commonly called ballot harvesting — for the 2020 general election after lawmakers passed the bill in a special session this month. The bill, which also expands vote-by-mail, was the Democrats’ answer to conducting the general election during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 1,000 Nevadans since March with infections continuing to surge some five months after the first reported case.

Sisolak’s spokeswoman, Meghin Delaney, said in an email that the office received Cegavske’s request around 5 p.m. Monday and that it would be reviewed.

Nevada State Democratic Party spokeswoman Molly Forgey called Cegavske’s request an attempt to limit voter assistance amid the pandemic.

“This move by the Secretary of State is clearly a partisan attempt to make it more difficult to implement voter assistance laws and closely resembles Trump and the GOP’s voter suppression playbook,” Forgey said in a statement.

Ballot harvesting was outlawed in Nevada by the Legislature in 1993 and is considered a felony under state law. That was changed in 1999 to allow family members to return a ballot on behalf of their relatives.

Cegavske, Nevada’s lone current Republican constitutional officer, said that the passage of AB4 “eliminated an enduring state law that served to protect the integrity of elections.”

President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, as well as national and state Republicans, filed a federal lawsuit against Cegavske challenging the changes made by AB4. The lawsuit includes many of the Republican attacks leveled against enhanced voting by mail and ballot harvesting, specifically alleging compromised election integrity and increased risk of fraud, although there are few cases to back up the claims.

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford last week filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the Republicans’ lawsuit lacks the facts needed to prove injury to voters.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

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