Protesters gathered at Reno City Plaza on Tuesday, Aug. 4, to voice their concerns about Assembly Bill 4, which passed in the Special Session on Sunday and was signed into law by Gov. Steve Sisolak Monday. The bill allows Nevada voters the option to vote by mail as a way to keep social distancing during the pandemic.
Frederick Douglass attended the protest and said, “There’s no reason to change the voting laws last minute because of the COVID. We are able to go shop at Costco and Walmart. There are counter workers, daycare workers, all sorts of people are still working. We can’t hide from this thing. We don’t know if we are ever going to get a vaccine or not. We need to learn to live with this thing or not. I believe everybody that is worried about the COVID can request an absentee ballot, keep it [voting laws] the same, but have that option.”
When asked what the biggest concern about mail-in voting is, Douglass said, “They are allowing up to seven days after the election date, by Nov. 10, to be post stamped.”
AB4 states that mail-in ballots must be postmarked by Election Day (Nov. 3) and, “received by the clerk not later than 5 p.m. on the seventh day following the election.” The extra days allow for mail carriers to deliver the correctly postmarked ballots to be counted.
However, the bill also includes: “If a mail ballot is received by mail not later than 5 p.m. on the third day following the election and the date of the postmark cannot be determined, the mail ballot shall be deemed to have been postmarked on or before the day of the election.”
Nov. 13 will be the deadline for votes to be counted by the counting board. The language inside the bill states: “As soon as the returns from all the precincts and districts in any county have been received by the board of county commissioners, the board shall meet and canvass the returns. The canvass must be completed on or before the 10th day following the election.”
The Trump campaign sues Nevada
Shortly following the end of the protest on Tuesday night, the story broke that the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit against the State of Nevada in regard to AB4.
The lawsuit language is wide-ranging with complaints about AB4, but has a focus on the language regarding how long after Election Day votes will be allowed to count, referenced above.
Overall, the lawsuit challenges the timeline of when votes are allowed to be counted, how rural counties will be affected by the number of polling places allowed in AB4, and describes how there is not enough language in AB4 regarding the proper procedures for counting mail-in ballots.
AB4 sets the number of polling places for each county by the population number residing in said county. For example, Washoe County will have 15 in-person polling places for early voting and 25 in-person polling places for Election Day.
President Trump has been tweeting about Nevada since Monday and at the same time has been tweeting about Florida’s mail-in ballot plans as well.
The tweets, when viewed side-by-side, demonstrate the difference in tone the President takes when discussing his feelings about mail-in ballots.
Governor Sisolak makes an appearance on CNN
To truly show the impact that Tuesday’s events had on the mail-in voting discussion, in the state and around the nation between protests and lawsuits, Sisolak also appeared on CNN during the time of the protests to voice his reasoning for support of AB4.
“Our constituents don’t have to choose between staying healthy and exercising their right to vote,” said Sisolak. “It’s extremely important to me that everyone who wants to vote has that opportunity and we make it accessible for them.
“Everyone will have a ballot mailed to them. They will be able to fill out that ballot, send that ballot back, and have it count in lieu of having to stand in line and vote in person. You can’t vote twice. There’s a cross-reference on there, so if they mail it in, you can’t vote in person.”
Sisolak went on to explain that voters will still have the option to turn in ballots in person at voting locations, such as pictured below from Washoe County’s Primary Election on June 9, 2020.
“I’ll give you an example,” Sisolak said. “My mother, she’s in her early 90s, because of the COVID she hasn’t been out of the house in over three months now. She feels much more comfortable filling out the ballot and having it sent in. I’m confident that a lot of other folks are gonna be the same way.”
Trevor Bexon has lived in Reno, Nevada since 2004. He believes Northern Nevada has a unique story that he hopes to share with others while leaving a visual history for future study.