Gov. Steve Sisolak signed several bills in Las Vegas on Friday that will expand voting access, abolish the state’s caucuses and move Nevada into a first-in-the-nation presidential preference primary election in 2024.
Sisolak opened his speech at the East Las Vegas Community Center by noting that some 48 states have submitted 389 bills restricting voting access, stressing his intention to do precisely the opposite.
“Today in the great state of Nevada, we are so proud that we are sending a strong message that the Silver State is not only bucking the national trend of infringing on voter rights, but rather we’re doing everything we can to expand access to the polls while ensuring our elections are secure and fair,” Sisolak said.
Assembly Bill 126, sponsored by Speaker Jason Frierson, has officially abolished presidential caucuses and moved Nevada up on the nominating calendar, though the national Republican and Democratic parties will ultimately have say on the latter.
“This brings me great pride, as the diversity and culture found in the people in the great state of Nevada undoubtedly represent the demographical composition of who we are as a nation,” Sisolak said. “It begins in Nevada.”
The bill was written, shepherded and signed by Nevada Democrats, and the Democratic National Committee appears willing to hear the state out on why it should supplant Iowa and New Hampshire in the voting order. Republican leaders in the early voting states have already stated their opposition to the plan, though several Republican state legislators ultimately voted in favor of AB 126.
“Nevada represents a diverse constituency the presidential candidates need to talk to,” Frierson said. “It’s not just for us, it is for candidates to vent their issues and communicate with the kind of communities that they’re going to be asking to vote for them.”
Mail voting expanded
Sisolak also hosted a ceremonial signing for Assembly Bill 321, which made the state’s expanded use of vote-by-mail during the pandemic permanent and set requirements for the counting of absentee ballots.
Assembly Minority Leader Dr. Robin Titus, R-Wellington, released a statement opposing AB 321, which she said will cost the state $13 million for the 2022 midterms.
“The perception of voter restriction is a manufactured crisis by partisan politicians and nothing more,” Titus said. “No election law should be passed with zero bipartisan support and every taxpayer should remember this.”
Sisolak signed Assembly Bills 422 and 432, which require the Nevada secretary of state’s office to establish a top-down voter list (in previous elections, county election officials held most of the control over the registration lists) and expand the state agencies that do automatic voter registration — currently in use at the Department of Motor Vehicles — to the state’s Medicaid and health insurance programs.
The governor held another ceremonial signing for Assembly Bill 121, extending voting access for people with disabilities.
Friday’s signings were lauded by progressive advocates, many of whom were in attendance.
“Today was a great day for safeguarding Nevadans’ right to vote, and we thank Governor Sisolak for signing several bills that once again cement Nevada as a leader for voting rights in the country,” said Annette Magnus, executive director of Battle Born Progress.
Vice President Kamala Harris also issued a statement Friday afternoon in support of the changes Sisolak signed into law.
“The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy, and defending that fundamental right is the most important work we can do as a nation,” Harris said.