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The Changing Election Laws of Swing States – Nevada

It’s election time in the Silver State – do you know where to vote for your future president?

by | Feb 5, 2024 | Articles, Good Reads, Politics

Editor’s note: This is the first in a multi-part series exploring the changing election laws of swing states.

The primaries have barely begun, and already it seems clear this presidential election will see Donald Trump and Joe Biden facing off once again. And, once again, the race seems certain to come down to a handful of swing states, some of which have new laws that just might “swing” them in favor of one party’s favorite or the other.

With statewide primaries on Tuesday, February 6, Nevada is up first. Beginning with the 2020 primary, the Silver State began sending every registered voter a mail-in ballot unless they opt out as a COVID-19 social distancing measure. Republican Governor Joe Lombardo tried to end the state’s embrace of the universal mail-in ballot last year, but Democrats control the Senate 13-7 and the Assembly 27-13. Such a measure never stood a chance against an almost two-to-one leftist majority in both houses.

Nevada lawmakers did, however, pass bills to expand voting access on tribal lands and in jails, protect election workers, and to revamp the administration of elections – and Governor Lombardo signed them into law. So here’s what’s different in 2024 in the crucial swing state.

 Reservation Voting

Prior to Senate Bill 327, Indian tribes could request either a polling place, a ballot drop box, or both be set up for election day and a temporary branch polling place for early voting. Only if the tribe made such a request would the county or city clerk then provide these resources. The new law, however, changes that program from opt-in to opt-out – meaning that now clerks will automatically set up polling places and/or drop boxes on reservations unless tribes specifically ask them not to. It also expands the number of polling places and drop boxes that can be set up within the boundaries of a reservation, should a tribe request more, and establishes the dates by which they must submit the request to opt out.

Another new law, Senate Bill 216, further requires the county and city clerks to schedule meetings with each tribe to discuss the details relating to the election cycle. It also allows registered voters and electors on the reservations to use the same electronic transmission systems already approved for military and overseas voters.

A Captive Electorate

Like most states in the Union, Nevada has long required county clerks to cancel the registration of any voters who are convicted of and incarcerated for a felony. However, the law didn’t necessitate non-felony inmates be so disenfranchised. “Unless a person has been convicted of a felony, existing law does not prohibit a person who is detained in a county or city jail from registering to vote or voting in an election,” explains the Legislative Counsel’s Digest section of Assembly Bill 286. The new law requires each county or city jail administrator to establish a policy that ensures that:

“(1) a person who is detained in the jail and is a registered voter may vote in each primary election, presidential preference primary election, primary city election, general election and general city election in which the person is eligible to vote; and (2) a person detained in the jail and is a qualified elector may register to vote in each such election.”

To be clear, this new law doesn’t allow anyone convicted of a felony who hasn’t already had his or her right to vote restored to register or vote. But for those misdemeanor inmates, it does require jail staff to make sure that each who wants to cast a ballot – and is legally allowed to – can do so privately, one at a time, and without any fear of coercion toward one candidate or another. It also requires election workers be protected and, finally, prohibits any electioneering near the area of the jail.

Navigating the Nevada Primaries

The biggest change, of course, is the confusing primary-caucus mess on the Republican side this year. As Liberty Nation’s Sarah Cowgill previously explained, state lawmakers decided to swap from the caucus to a primary election for 2024, but the GOP wasn’t interested in making the change. Since the new law requires there be a primary election for both the Democrats and the Republicans, however, there will be. It takes place Tuesday, February 6. For Democrats, it’s easy; this is how they’ll choose their presidential nominee. Not so for the GOP, however. Republicans have decided to keep their caucus, which will occur two days later on February 8. Since the Republican National Committee has endorsed this idea, all the state’s delegates go to the winner of the caucus, and, though anything is possible, all signs point to Donald Trump. His only competition here is Ryan Binkley, a pastor from Georgia whom most of you probably never heard of until reading his name right here.

To the winner of the primary – essentially a presidential beauty pageant, at this point – goes … bragging rights, perhaps? Nikki Haley, the only serious contender still in the running, has opted for the primary rather than the caucus. As the only active candidate with any national recognition, she’s pretty well guaranteed to either win or lose embarrassingly to “none of these candidates,” and yes, that’s an actual ballot option.


(Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

In any case, make no mistake about this: The winner of the primary isn’t going anywhere because it’s the wrong game. It doesn’t matter how many touchdowns you score; you’ll never win the World Series running across a football field. As LN’s Tim Donner quipped: “Got it? Yeah, I didn’t think so.”

Here’s the clearest path through the confusing maze. If you want to vote for Nikki Haley, submit a primary ballot. Polls will be open until 7 p.m. local time on Tuesday, February 6. If you’d prefer Donald Trump, the caucus is your ticket. It runs from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 8. Don’t want to choose? Have some fun with it by selecting “none of these options” on the primary ballot. For the Democrats, it’s the same date and time as the Republican primary, and your choices are Joe Biden, Marianne Williamson, and 11 other options who haven’t garnered any real national attention. For the fans of Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN), however, there’s bad news: He isn’t on the ballot in this state. For a list of polling places, visit the Nevada Secretary of State’s elections page.

Read More From James Fite

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