Right to cast Nevada ballots in-person must be protected

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Silver State Equality is Nevada’s statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization committed to bringing the voices of LGBTQ+ people and allies to institutions of power in Nevada and throughout the U.S. to create a world that is healthy, just and fully equal for all LGBTQ+ Nevadans. Given our mission, we are very concerned about Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske’s proposal to implement a vote-by-mail-only option in the upcoming election that would nearly eliminate in-person voting, ultimately denying thousands of citizens their right to vote. The secretary’s current plan would be particularly devastating for Nevada voters of color, LGBTQ+ voters and other eligible voters in traditionally disenfranchised communities. create a world that is healthy, just and fully equal for all LGBTQ+ Nevadans.  Given our mission, we are very concerned about Secretary of State Cegavske.

While we understand the hazards to health and safety posed by the coronavirus outbreak, and there is no issue more important than the health and well-being of Nevadans and their families, we believe this proposal is ill-conceived. While still protecting public health, we must simultaneously ensure we preserve the right of eligible Americans to cast ballots come Election Day.

The secretary’s plan calls for vote-by-mail for all eligible Nevada voters and does not require officials to review voter rolls for accuracy. This means an untold number of voters may not receive their ballots. The plan as proposed calls for only one in-person polling center per county, forcing thousands of Nevadans, who choose to vote in-person to gather in close proximity for hours on end and in direct violation of CDC COVID-19 recommendations.

Our goal must be a safe, secure and fair election process that protects public health and access to the polls for every eligible voter. We call on all officials who are serious about secure elections to address the problems that can arise with this plan that will ultimately prevent a fair election.

These potential issues include eligible voters who don’t receive ballots; lack of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act; lack of ballots in every conceivable language; among many others. Most importantly, it is imperative that we address providing accessible in-person voting options in safe and secure environments.

Mail voting is an important step to address the current pandemic, but it is not a panacea. Research suggests that an all-mail system will decrease minority turnout and result in the rejection of more mail ballots from minority voters. Safe and hygienic in-person voting provides protection for the subset of minority voters who feel uncomfortable or unfamiliar with the mechanics of mail voting. It also maintains a necessary safeguard for voters needing assistance or who never receive mail ballots, many of whom are likely to be members of minority communities.

This is a defining moment for us as a state, as well as a nation. We urge Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske to do the right thing for ALL Nevadans.

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