Urgency Behind Nevada's New Bill That Expands Mail-In Voting
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Today President Trump vowed to sue the state of Nevada over its moves to make voting easier during the pandemic. The Nevada Legislature, led by Democrats, passed a bill this weekend directing the state to automatically mail ballots to all registered voters for the November election. Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak is expected to sign the legislation.
STACEY VANEK SMITH, HOST:
In a tweet this morning, President Trump called the bill, quote, "an illegal late-night coup," which he said, quote, "made it impossible for Republicans to win the state." He ended his tweet with, quote, "see you in court," exclamation point. Reporter Michelle Rindels covers the state legislature for The Nevada Independent, and we have her on the line to explain the new legislation and Republican objections to it.
MICHELLE RINDELS: Hey. Thanks for having me.
VANEK SMITH: Michelle, do we have any idea why mail-in ballots has become a partisan issue?
RINDELS: Yeah. I think we heard a lot from Republicans during the hearings for these bills. They say that if you can go to a grocery store or a Home Depot and wear a mask, then you can wear a mask to a polling place and show up in person. But this also, you know, vastly expands the group of people who show up for an election. We had record turnout when we had the mostly mail primary election in June. It was 30% turnout, which is the highest it's been since 1996.
VANEK SMITH: If, as you mentioned, Nevada used mail-in ballots in the June primary, why was it necessary to enact this legislation?
RINDELS: Well, we're getting really close to the election here. We are less than a hundred days from the November general election. I think a lot of the clerks are looking for some sort of guidance. Now, our Republican secretary of state, Barbara Cegavske, has made it clear that she wants to return somewhat to normal in the upcoming general election and move away from the mostly mail model that was in effect in the June primary. And Democrats are concerned that things are not getting better in the state of Nevada. You know, we're seeing more cases as we've reopened. And I think for a lot of people, it wasn't sitting well that we're going to plan to have a mostly in-person election when things are still so uncertain.
VANEK SMITH: One of the concerns I know that President Trump expressed was about fraud associated with mail-in voting. Is that true? Do we see more cases of fraud with mail-in ballots?
RINDELS: Well, Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, who is Republican, acknowledged in these public hearings that they had not gotten any reports of fraud stemming from this June primary, which was conducted mostly by mail. And 98% of Nevada voters ended up casting their ballots by mail.
VANEK SMITH: So this legislation that was passed over the weekend - was there anything else in that bill?
RINDELS: The bill does provide for an expansion of in-person voting. So during the June primary, in Clark County, which is 2 million people, there were three in-person voting locations. And...
VANEK SMITH: Oh.
RINDELS: There was one location in particular where the last voter didn't cast a ballot till around 3 a.m. And in Clark County, they're calling for at least a hundred in-person locations at the general election.
VANEK SMITH: And, Michelle, do we have any idea how they would staff additional polling places?
RINDELS: That has come up during the hearings at the legislature - is, how are you going to get people out here, especially if your typical volunteer is a senior who is especially vulnerable to COVID? So there was discussion about, let's reach out to the colleges. Let's see about the high schools to try to get younger people that would be willing to staff these polling places.
VANEK SMITH: One other thing we heard from President Trump was a call for legal action. I'm wondering - have any Nevada Republicans made a move to file a lawsuit or anything like that?
RINDELS: There is a lawsuit that was brought by Republicans against the June primary. Ahead of the November election, there hasn't really been a whole lot, aside from the president threatening to take Nevada to court on this issue.
VANEK SMITH: That is Michelle Rindels of The Nevada Independent.
Michelle, thank you so much.
RINDELS: Thanks so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.