Home > Opinion > Washoe County Commissioners must reject shameful, racist proposal (opinion)

Washoe County Commissioners must reject shameful, racist proposal (opinion)

By ThisIsReno

Submitted by Meghan Archambault

In the media world, Friday evenings are usually reserved for the news elected officials want to slip under the door, the “must-release but we don’t want to deal with the fallout” news. The bombs they cross their fingers will not detonate. That is exactly what the Washoe County Commissioners appeared to do with their near 11th-hour Agenda Item #14 added to the meeting agenda for this coming Tuesday, ahead of the holiday weekend. 

Quietly dropped on Wednesday, the Election Resolution found under Agenda Item #14 makes 20 ghastly changes to the electoral process in Washoe County rooted in the far-right’s desire to keep Black, Brown, elderly, disabled, low-income, and unsheltered people from voting and seeks to recreate the segregation and disenfranchisement of the past. By Thursday, the proposed changes began to spread like wildfire across social media.

While it was proposed by Commissioner Jeanne Herman, I am loath to give her the credit. It is unoriginal in its flat bigotry but manages to be more radical than the majority of other dubious “election purity” measures proposed by right-wing extremists and militia groups nationwide. 

As of press time Thursday night, she could not be bothered to comment.

Never mind, Commissioner, we’ll say what needs to be said.

I spoke with Nnedi Stephens, Democratic candidate for Nevada State Senate District 13, who joined the ACLU of Nevada and other elected officials in issuing a forceful rebuke of the Washoe County Commission’s proposed consideration of Agenda Item #14.

“I cannot find words strong enough to condemn the spirit and letter of Agenda Item #14 for its blatant racist and ableist nature,” Stephens said Thursday. 

Peppered throughout the illegal resolution’s own language are echoes of blistering historical connotations rooted in white supremacy, including the intimidating presence of the National Guard at polling stations, mass disenfranchisement via voter roll purges, and vague threats of “enacting any other measure that ensures the accuracy, security, and purity of elections.”

“Little is less patriotic than impeding the right to vote.”

Make no mistake, with the increase of racist and xenophobic rhetoric at public comments coming from an inflamed, misguided group of right-wing radicals fervently embracing white nationalist talking points and falsely insisting the 2020 election was “stolen,” “enacting any other measure” is a loaded weapon, not unlike those frequently open-carried outside the State Capitol as an intimidation tactic. 

Stephens also noted the horrific callback to segregation inherent in the proposal, adding, “Its proponents are clearly nostalgic for a time, decades ago, when the franchise was reserved for only a few under the auspices of ‘election purity’ and the ability to vote was far less accessible than it is today. They should be ashamed of themselves.”

If passed, this illegal resolution would certainly result in costly lawsuits for Washoe County. It allows only a single electronic voting booth per precinct, purges existing voter records outside of state law, demands the military oversee polling centers and the tallying of results, and forces the hand-counting of paper ballots, making room for human error as one counts overseen by armed guards. 

Further, it allows political parties to dictate who is allowed to be poll workers via abandoning the non-partisan election monitoring process, giving rise to the possibility of electioneering; and strips voters of their right to a secret ballot. 

Nicholas St. Jon refused to stop speaking during his allotted public comment time. Image: Washoe County meeting screen grab.
Nicholas St. Jon refused to stop speaking during his allotted public comment time. Image: Washoe County meeting screen grab.

The proposal comes after a bizarre string of public comments packed with unhinged and false claims regarding electoral fraud derailed the Feb. 9 Washoe County Board of County Commissioners meeting, including from one member of the extremist Washoe Patriots who refused to yield the microphone until security intervened. 

It follows similar proposals in dozens of municipalities by well-funded right-wing nationalists in a fevered attempt to subvert the democratic process by stopping the non-existent steal.

If Joe McCarthy were still alive, he’d give the county commissioners supporting this his whole-hearted support. Perhaps the Board’s next dalliance with white supremacism could be an Un-Nevadan Activities Committee, which has certainly never been done before. 

The right to vote is one of the most sacred rights guaranteed to ALL Americans over the age of 18. That the Washoe County Commissioners would even consider ripping this right from Nevadans under the guise of patriotism is a cowardly kowtowing to fascists. 

Little is less patriotic than impeding the right to vote.

Should this pass, as a veteran I encourage my fellow current servicemembers to deeply consider what the Nevada Code of Military Justice states regarding lawful orders. A Nevada National Guard soldier is charged with following the lawful orders of their superiors under NRS 412.492. I would hope they recognize that to be told to stand guard and prevent their fellow citizens from exercising their constitutional rights is an unlawful order.

I and the rest of the Nnedi for Nevada Campaign staff implore all Washoe County residents who are repulsed by this vile attack on voting rights to attend the Washoe County Board of County Commissioners meeting this Tuesday, Feb. 22, at 10 a.m. at 1001 E. 9th Street in Reno and demand commissioners reject this resolution. 

For those unable to make their voices heard in person, please email the Clerk at [email protected] as well as the commissioners at [email protected] before 4:00 p.m. today.

As we see pictures from the civil rights era, it’s easy to forget Ruby Bridges, the first Black child to attend an all-white school in Louisiana in 1960, is only 67 years old. My own mother is 69. We are still uncomfortably close to the days of J. Edgar Hoover and COINTELPRO, Bull Connor’s brutality, and Joe McCarthy’s witch hunts. 

Bridges strode into her elementary school, head held high, flanked by National Guardsmen. Their grandsons could easily be the men charged with preventing Black Renoites of Bridges’ generation from reaching the poll booth should the Washoe County commissioners approve this callow measure.

Meghan Archambault is the Communications Director for Nevada State Senate District 13 Democratic candidate Nnedi Stephens. She previously served as a communications consultant and director for numerous state and local candidates. She lives in Reno with her husband and four-year-old twins.

Submitted opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of This Is Reno. Have something to say? Submit an opinion article here.

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