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‘Patently Illegal’: ACLU says county agenda item on ballots, voting would violate state law

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An agenda item for Tuesday’s Washoe County Commission meeting seeks to make sweeping changes to the county’s requirements governing voting.

Critics of the agenda item, which was requested by Commissioner Jeanne Herman, said the election resolution, if passed, would violate basic voter rights and state laws.

The resolution seeks to make 20 changes to current voting practices – however, the agenda only says those changes “may” be included “to ensure accuracy, security, and purity of elections.”

Some of those changes include ensuring the Nevada National Guard is present at each polling location, reverting to paper ballots, calling for bipartisan “shifts … for all positions” and “enacting any other measure that ensures the accuracy, security, and purity of elections.”

Holly Welborn with the ACLU of Nevada called the proposal wholly illegal. 

Washoe County Commissioner Jeanne Herman
Washoe County Commissioner Jeanne Herman

“It violates provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act as well as state law,” she said. “If it moves forward it opens them up to a lawsuit. I would be surprised if the [Washoe County] District Attorney gave this a stamp of approval because it is patently illegal.”

Several measures on the resolution could be costly for the county, including ensuring that mailed ballots are sent by certified mail “so only [the] intended voter takes possession of it.” 

No fiscal impact is noted to the resolution other than a statement saying “there may be increased labor costs for manual counting of ballots which should be offset by reduced costs associated with software and hardware updates on voting kiosks and ballot scanners.” 

“It would be a fiscal nightmare to implement many of these policies,” Welborn said. “The resolution itself doesn’t have any detail or specificity. It doesn’t really state what the resolution is.” 

The Nevada Secretary of State’s Office would not comment on the agenda item. Herman did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.

Commissioner Alexis Hill said she had major concerns with the resolution. 

“We have members of our community who are fighting to take our election freedoms away,” she posted on Facebook. “They have demanded an illegal resolution be voted on by the board and one commissioner has relented to their demands by requesting this item be put on our agenda. 

“We have a well run election system in Washoe County and the changes requested are not only NOT necessary, they are illegal.”

The agenda item comes after public commenters derailed a recent Washoe County meeting with dozens of complaints about voting. Many of their claims were false, misleading or unsubstantiated. They demanded the changes now proposed by Herman be brought to the commission at a future meeting. 

“Our State Legislators have fought for more access to the ballot for our community members and this resolution seeks to remove that access,” Hill added.

Bob Conrad
Bob Conradhttp://thisisreno.com
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. He is also a part time instructor at UNR and sits on the boards of the Nevada Press Association and Nevada Open Government Coalition.

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