Protecting the Right to Vote and Combating Bad Faith Attacks on Nevada Elections

November 17, 2020 | Local Issues
Mike Young

Nevadans spent the past two weeks inundated with national curiosity and memes — so many memes — about its elections. At a certain point, however, good-natured jokes gave way to projecting a general frustration about the way American elections function.

It’s understandable; sweeping changes to the election process are necessary across the country in several respects, particularly removing the obstacles many individuals confront in attempting to cast a ballot.

Relatively, Nevadans face fewer of those  — a result of the great ground-level work done by a coalition of progressive organizations who fought for the right to restore voting rights to those with criminal convictions, pushed for a ballot measure for automatic voter registration at the DMV, and supported same-day voter registration legislation, passed in 2019.

However, like most of the country, incarcerated Nevadans face extraordinary hurdles in attempting to vote despite the recent legislation. During this election cycle, Question 3 directly impacted them. It’s unfortunate they are, largely, not given a chance to even slightly improve their material conditions, especially at a time in which prison populations are an even more vulnerable population due to widespread COVID-19 outbreaks.

Expanding voting rights to all and protecting the integrity of a democratic process are essential to building socialism in this country. While not being the means to an end, it does allow for effectuating change on a local level — LVDSA endorsed several ballot questions and socialist candidates. By participating in the process, we give working class people a voice and can form appropriate coalitions in the ultimate goal of overthrowing the existing social and political order.

Historically, turnout in Nevada is lower than the national average. That will, most likely, not happen this year when the count is certified, given the aforementioned expansion to voter rights and the proliferation of mail ballots. As of Nov. 10, mail ballots represented 49.3% of the total statewide turnout.

Election officials completed count of the mail-in ballots Thursday, which served as a deadline for voters who needed to confirm their signature on the back of the mail-in ballot envelope matched the one on file (Wayne Thorley, the appointed Deputy Secretary of State for Elections, breaks it down in more detail in this video).

As someone who participated in the ballot curing process, it requires institutional knowledge of how to track your ballot and, for ease of completing the cure, access to a smartphone. The massive unions of Clark County — The Culinary Union 226, for example — helped supply some of that information to voters in canvassing efforts.

Post-election day, local and national progressive groups mobilized via phone banking efforts to assist Nevada voters in the ballot curing process. The highly-organized Nevada Democratic Party played a large role in these efforts and, naturally, their voter databases are more likely to  include registered Democrats.

This had a profound effect; as of Nov. 10, registered Dems had fewer outstanding ballots needing signature cures. Unfortunately, this process excludes many who are not registered to either party, as 39.24% of the remaining mail ballots needing signature cures belonged to those voters. Considering the president, along with local rodeo clown Adam Laxalt, actively discouraged mail-in voting and stoked fears of fraudulent ballots, this may have had an effect on registered Republican return rates, as well.

It’s worth noting even Oregon, which has conducted all elections by mail since voters passed a measure in 1998, has yet to perfect the signature curing process, with voter outreach being a particular struggle.

More people are engaged now than before, which has prompted the GOP to baselessly attack the integrity of the election and local journalists to use voters as props to prank Clark County election officials for social clout.

Ultimately, even with the legislation and ballot measure victories in Nevada, the access to voting is still not guaranteed to all. As socialists, it’s important we continue to organize to defend and refine the process.