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County use policy sets new guidelines for electioneering, bulletin boards

New electioneering and bulletin board policies are going into effect in Nye County ahead of early voting and the general election.

The Nye County Property Use Policy adopted on Tuesday by a 4-1 vote by the county commission is intended to provide additional guidelines to aid County Manager Pam Webster in making decisions regarding county property use.

Commissioner Donna Cox cast the dissenting vote.

County Clerk Sandra “Sam” Merlino said she hadn’t had time to review the adopted policy but said that it follows current election laws.

“We don’t have a lot of contentious local races this election, so I don’t see any of the designated parking areas for booths as a big issue but I don’t know if we will have any campaign booths for the ballot questions or the presidential race,” Merlino said.

Nye County commissioners encourage electioneering activities that maintain the safe and orderly use of county property, according to the policy.

Electioneering means campaigning for or against a candidate, ballot question or political party by posting signs, distributing literature, soliciting signatures, conducting exit polls or surveys, setting up booths or tables.

The policy sets some limitations for electioneering activities.

Under the policy, electioneering activities are allowed only at the farthest parking places by the sidewalk of the courthouse. Under the new guidelines; all electioneering activities must be approved in writing by the county manager at least 24 hours before the activity taking place; all booths and tables used in electioneering activities must be removed at the end of each day. To set up a booth, electioneers will need to sign a document provided by the county manager.

Commissioner Lorinda Wichman said she doesn’t believe the new policy will affect the upcoming general election in a negative way.

“It will provide more comfortable ingress and egress to the voters that arrive at the polls,” she said. “I don’t believe that will be a hardship to any voters in the general election. It simply maintains a reasonable order to the activity.”

During the Nye County Commission meeting on Tuesday, officials made a few changes to the policy.

The policy stated that all election observers must complete the form required by Nevada Administrative Code.

“That’s a little vague,” District Attorney Angela Bello said. “It should say all observers of voting within a polling place would have to fill out a form. Not all observers standing out in the parking lot watch the booths.”

Bello said she also took out permits for signs and rights of way that were previously included in the policy.

“My office did take out all of the sections that refer to the county buildings and we did that because I think that we need to bring it back and I wanted to add that because there was some confusion and we just need more discussion with Pam because it was referring to buildings and there’s a distinction between the inside of the building compared to grounds such as at Calvada Eye,” Bello said.

Additionally, the policy stated that candidates, campaign groups, observers, watchers, and anyone conducting exit polls must abide by the election laws outlined in the Nevada Revised Statutes for polling places. According to state law, anyone in violation of these laws may be charged with a gross misdemeanor.

“It’s vague as to which laws it’s referring to,” Bello said. “We can’t make a new crime through a policy. It would have to be an ordinance change.”

The policy also sets new guidelines for bulletin boards and signs.

County bulletin boards and signs are not intended as a forum for the expression of the views or opinions of individuals or groups, according to the documents.

County bulletin boards and signs are only for official county use including, but not limited to notices and agendas for public meetings, information regarding county services, legal notices, court calendars, public safety announcements, or law enforcement “wanted” signs.

On May 17, Nye County commissioners adopted a Nye County resolution that authorized Webster to make decisions related to county property use by general constitutional principles. The Nye County Property Use Policy was driven by that resolution, officials said.

Contact reporter Daria Sokolova at dsokolova@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @dariasokolova77

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