Sisolak says in-person voting safe but wants to avoid lines
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said Friday that it will be safe to vote in person this November, but he prefers that people to stay home and vote by mail or vote early to avoid big crowds at Election Day polling places.
Sisolak and other Democrats held a phone call with reporters where they defended a law the governor signed earlier this month to automatically mail ballots to the state’s active voters ballots ahead of the November election, which President Donald Trump’s campaign has challenged in court.
The governor and Nevada House Speaker Jason Frierson, who wrote the law, were asked if it’s unsafe for people to vote in person.
“Absolutely not,” Sisolak said. But he added, “We prefer that people stay home, especially if you’re in a vulnerable situation, you’ve got an underlying medical condition. You’ve got any symptoms of the virus, any of those sort of things.”
The governor said he encourages people to stay home and to avoid crowds, and that’s why he’s encouraging people to vote early or vote by mail.
Frierson said he agreed with the governor that voting in person is “absolutely safe.”
“We’ll continue to practice social distancing and wear masks to minimize exposure,” he said.
By providing in-person, early voting and voting by mail this November, “with all three options available for voters, we are doing it in the safest and most secure way possible,” he said.
Nevada is among at least eight states that plan to automatically send voters mail ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic this year.
Trump’s campaign and the Republican Party filed a lawsuit over the new law, contending it would undermine the election’s integrity. The president, though he has voted by mail himself, has raised unfounded fears in recent months about vote-by-mail leading to fraud, even though elections experts say fraud by any form of voting is rare.
Frierson said he’s confident Nevada’s new law will withstand the court challenge and with the changes, “barriers posed by the global pandemic are now easier to overcome.”
“This gives more options and of course will hopefully reduce waits.”
The new law also requires at least 140 in-person polling locations in Nevada, including 100 in the Las Vegas area. That’s comes after officials drastically cut in-person sites in the June primary, leading to lines as long as eight hours.
Nevada’s Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske opposed Nevada’s new law, saying her office did not have the budget for the changes, in addition to opposing changes to rules about who can collect ballots.
She has also said that the Democratically-controlled Legislature excluded her from discussions about the new law, showing her a draft of the bill a day before it was voted on in the state Assembly. After it passed, she requested Sisolak enact an emergency regulation allowing her office more oversight over provisions allowing third parties to collect and return multiple ballots, something critics derisively call “ballot harvesting.”
Sisolak rejected the request. On Friday, he and Frierson both pushed back on claims from the state’s top elections official that she wasn’t consulted. They said Cegavske was part of the process because she testified to the bill during a hearing and made her opposition known.
“Had she not been closed to the concept from the start, then, you know, maybe she would have been a little more assertive in trying to make suggestions,” Frierson said. “But we had hearings.”