In one of my favorite stories of how the hastily adopted mail-in voting systems failed during the pandemic year of 2020, over 223,000 ballots mailed out to voters in Clark County, Nevada, were returned as undeliverable during the Democratic primary there last year due to incorrect or out-of-date addresses on the voter rolls.
That’s 223,00 out of 1,325,934 ballots sent out in the state’s most populous county, home to Las Vegas, after it decided to automatically send ballots to every eligible voter on the rolls for the June primary. Not only was that 17 percent of all ballots mailed, it’s also worth noting that 305,008 ballots were returned and accepted. So that’s about three ballots undeliverable for every four that counted.
The state’s Democrats apparently think mail-in voting was so hitch-free in 2020 that every election from here on in ought to work like that.
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the state Assembly voted last week to approve Assembly Bill 321, legislation that would make universal mail-in balloting permanent. The state Senate added its stamp of approval on Monday night, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal.
As the Review-Journal noted, it would “effectively codify the voting reforms made for the 2020 election amid the COVID-19 pandemic.” That also means ballot-harvesting, the process of a third party collecting mail-in ballots, would also be made permanent.
The bill passed on a party-line vote in both houses of the state legislature. After a procedural vote in the Assembly, it heads to the desk of Democrat Gov. Steve Sisolak for an expected signature.
As always, you can guess at the mediasplaining regarding why Republicans opposed the measure.
The Review-Journal: “Republicans in Nevada and across the U.S. have railed against expanded mail-in voting, citing unsubstantiated claims that it led to widespread voter fraud last year. Those claims have been refuted by Nevada’s Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, who has said no evidence of widespread fraud has been found statewide.”
The Las Vegas Sun: “It’s been generally opposed by Republicans, who in statehouses nationwide are mostly voting for measures designed to limit voting access — especially in communities of color.”
Apparently, liberals just can’t get enough of the idea that any kind of voter integrity legislation entails the “new Jim Crow.” But I digress.
The favorite go-to for quotes for Assembly Bill 321 in the media was Democratic Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson of Las Vegas, who doled out platitudes like this: “We are all about giving Nevadans options, and folks exercising the freedoms that we have here, whether it’s in person or by mail.”
As for why he couldn’t get bipartisan support for Assembly Bill 321, Frierson pointed to a “national, philosophical debate about elections.”
“When it comes to access to democracy, Nevada has been leading and I’m pleased that we were able to take a step forward,” he added.
Goodness, why would anyone be against this bill? It’s almost as if physical copies of the bill weren’t printed using toner but the milk of human kindness.
We can start with the cost to implement the plan: $12.3 million over two years, if you go by the estimate of the Legislature’s fiscal staff. Beyond that, however, it doesn’t matter whether there were any election irregularities that arose from mail-in voting last year. It’s whether or not the system is secure enough to withstand threats in the future — and whether or not voters can trust that system.
“Whether it was one fraudulent vote or a thousand, it does not matter if the trust in the system has been severely questioned,” Republican Assembly Minority Leader Robin Titus said before the vote, according to the Review-Journal. “And I am concerned that this bill just furthers that distrust of the system.”
Let’s get back up for a second and look at Speaker Frierson’s statements. The bill is about “options” and “access to democracy.” Those standards seem to be the pole star of many in the Democratic Party, not in any small part because of political cupidity. But by that standard, any level of election security is necessarily problematic.
Take ballot-harvesting. Only one major race in recent memory has been overturned because of alleged voter fraud. It involved ballot-harvesting — and, yes, a Republican was the beneficiary.
After irregularities showed up in GOP candidate Mark Harris’ 2018 905-vote victory in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District — consider 61 percent of absentee votes had gone Republican versus just 19 percent of absentee voters who were registered Republicans, according to The New York Times — allegations emerged that an operative named L. McCrae Dowless Jr. had run an illegal ballot-harvesting scheme.
As The Times reported in February of 2019, the operative paid underlings who “swept up unsealed or incomplete ballots and returned them in batches to Mr. Dowless, who was working on behalf of the Harris campaign.” The state refused to certify the election, Harris withdrew from a redo of the race and Dowless is still awaiting a trial in connection with the affair, in addition to separate charges of Social Security fraud related to money he was paid for his role in the election, according to The Bladen Journal.
And while the state of Nevada’s general election performance was nowhere near as sloppy as Clark County’s job on the Democratic primary, that debacle remains an augury of what could happen if the state treats 2020 as the norm and not as a massive outlier. Remember, election fraudsters of any party want nothing more than states that push “options” and “access to democracy” at the expense of a system that’s secure and trustworthy.
This is why Republicans are trying to make elections more secure. It’s a lesson Democrats should start learning.
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