Author Archives: Sondra Cosgrove

About Sondra Cosgrove

President League of Women Voters of Nevada

League of Women Voters of Nevada Statement on the 2020 Primary Election

On March 24, 2020, Governor Sisolak placed Nevada on a Stay at Home order due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  In response, Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske exercised due diligence and began working with our seventeen county election officers to plan for Nevada’s June 9, 2020, primary election. 

To protect Nevadans, our election officials did everything possible under the law to ensure our voting rights were protected, while also protecting the public’s health.

At the time the all mail-in voting plan was developed, no large buildings or public spaces normally utilized for vote centers in Clark County were open.  Furthermore, most of our poll worker volunteers were mostly retired individuals who are at high risk of contracting and dying from the coronavirus.  So, our election officials decided to limit in-person voting to protect the public’s health and instead decided to send mail-in ballots to every voter with a verified address on record, which included a postage-paid envelope.

Voters had ample opportunity to log into the online voter registration system to register to vote and to update their address and registration status. Additionally, in-person voter registration was available at the Election Department offices.

This new plan included a new full website with information that was regularly updated, social media videos and graphics, and television commercials.  The election officials also reached out to civic organizations to engage in on-going dialog. 

The League of Women Voters of Nevada was one of the first organizations, but certainly not the last, to host Deputy Secretary of State Wayne Thorley as a speaker, and Secretary Cegavske and Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria made themselves available for many interviews and presentations.

For a variety of different reasons, many voters decided to vote in-person on election day and there were long lines, but every person in line at 7 pm was able to vote.

Both parties have used this election’s processes for partisan purposes and have tried to score partisan points by trying to tear down our election officials.   I therefore strongly believe that it falls to the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Nevada, and myself specifically, to go on record in full support of our Secretary of State and county election officials. 

We already have a problem with low voter turnout in Nevada, we do not need to sow seeds of doubt about our election processes.  That is irresponsible.  I have full faith in all our election officials and will defend them as strongly as I will defend our state.

Sondra Cosgrove

President League of Women Voters of Nevada

 

Fair Maps Nevada Press Release: Agreement Reached & Executive Order Needed

Today, the Fair Maps Nevada Coalition announced successfully negotiating an agreement with the Secretary of State and our election officials.  Please see the press release and letter to Governor Sisolak below.

 

Fair Maps Nevada

Press Release

The Fair Maps Nevada coalition reached an agreement with the Secretary of State’s Office and our county election officials today that sets the new signature submission deadline for our ballot petition to Monday, August 3, 2020.  We thank the Secretary of State and the county clerks and registrars for working with us on this compromise.  Every member of Fair Maps Nevada works constructively with our election officials throughout the year to ensure we have exemplary election processes. We appreciate their dedication to safe and secure voting, especially in these challenging times.

We are, therefore, now calling on Governor Sisolak to use his discretionary authority, as other Governors have, to issue an executive order that allows us to use the secure, reliable, and efficient online voter registration system, which Nevada has successfully used for many years, to gather signatures electronically, instead of the currently unsafe in-person signature process.  This system, that validates Nevadans eligibility to vote, can also securely and reliably validate signers who are eligible to sign our petition.

In fact, by using this system, which will validate eligibility to sign our petition at the point of signature, we will alleviate the usual burden on our county clerks and registrars to manually validate signatures after the petition submission date and ensure that we have no signature fraud.

Furthermore, if we are forced to engage in signature gathering activities that defy social distancing guidance, we could very likely spread COVID-19 and numerous groups could be excluded from signing our petition because they are at high risk for contracting and succumbing to the virus.  This includes the elderly, individuals with chronic diseases, voters who are immunocompromised, many voters with disabilities, minority communities who have already been disproportionately affected by the virus, and the family members of these high-risk groups who are trying their best to keep their loved ones safe and healthy.  These groups will be avoiding answering their doors and attending large events where petitions will circulate.  

Significantly, Nevadans serving out-of-state or overseas in the military or in civilian capacities also will suffer as they are always excluded from signing ballot petitions despite the fact that their right to vote is guaranteed by state and federal law.

“If Nevada can transition our entire primary election to an all-mail-in voting process, including a new electronic signature program that allows voters to “sign” their ballot envelopes virtually to add missing signatures, we assert that we should be allowed to protect Nevadans’ direct democracy rights through an existing electronic signature process.” –Sondra Cosgrove, Fair Maps Nevada

A federal judge ruled last week that our right to advance a constitutional amendment as a ballot question is protected by Nevada’s constitution and the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  We hope the Governor will recognize our right to ask all eligible Nevadans to help qualify our amendment without endangering anyone’s health and well-being.  We have supported the Governor’s wise executive directives to protect our community from COVID-19 and we will continue to support his directive to practice social distancing, but we need his help to continue to comply.

Finally, we thank our attorneys at McDonald Carano who have helped us navigate our state’s frustrating, confusing, and arduous petition process with a level of care and dedication far and above what we expected as clients.

Letter to Governor Sisolak:

Letter to the Governor

Letter to the Governor II

Fair Maps Nevada Announces Petition to Gather Signatures Electronically

After a thoughtful conversation, the Fair Maps Nevada coalition has decided we cannot in good conscience gather petition signatures in-person, face-to-face and very likely contribute to the spread COVID-19. But we are also unwilling to give up our right to engage in direct democracy.

So, we plan to ask Governor Sisolak to affirm our state’s commitment to protecting the right to engage in political processes by joining the Governors of Utah and Colorado and issuing an Executive Order to allow us to gather petition signatures safely and securing through the online voter registration system.


If you support our right to engage in direct democracy safely, please sign our petition and encourage family and friends to also sign. Thank you!


https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/protect-direct-democracy-in-nevada

Response: Federal Judge Rules for Deadline Extension

On May 29, 2020, Federal District Court Miranda Du responded to Fair Maps Nevada’s request to extend the deadline for submitting ballot petition signatures and to gather signatures electronically to protect the public’s health. (The judge’s order is attached at the end of this post)

Judge Du found that we are entitled to up to six weeks extra time, which matches the amount of time we lost due to the Governor’s COVID-19 Stay at Home Order. She did not, however, rule that we can use electronic signature gathering to protect Nevadans from COVID-19 infection.

Judge Du ruled that she does not have the power to require the Secretary of State’s Office to work with us to create a system for gathering signatures electronically because we are close to the November election and because it would be difficult to find an electronic signature gathering program that would prevent fraud.

We find this reasoning puzzling considering the courts are now meeting virtually and using electronic signatures for most transactions, which means our court system recognizes electronic signatures as reliable and secure. And the Secretary of State’s office just announced it purchased an electronic signature program to allow voters who forget to sign their mail-in ballot’s return envelope to sign electronically.

We had planned to ask the Secretary of State’s office to allow us to use the online voter registration system to gather signatures, which Nevadans have used for many years to register to vote. This program allows eligible voters to affix their signatures on record with the DMV to voter registration forms. It is a proven and secure system and much more reliable than randomly asking people outside of a grocery store to sign a paper ballot petition.

Judge Du ruled that we must use the in-person, face to face signature gathering process as it exists in Nevada Revised Statutes to qualify our ballot petition. She does note that Governor Sisolak may set aside statute through his emergency powers in NRS Chapter 411, but apart from an order from the Governor to allow us to gather signature safely and securely electronically, we will need to employ a traditional strategy for gathering signatures.

This strategy will include hiring petition circulators to go door-to-door asking voters to sign our petition and hosting large events in each petition district to answer questions from voters and to request signatures. We regret that under these circumstances many voters will be unable to sign our petition out of fear of being infected by COVID-19.  These high-risk groups include people of color, the elderly, individuals with chronic diseases, voters who are immunocompromised, many voters with disabilities, and the family members of these high risk groups who are trying their best to keep their loved ones safe and healthy.

We will post more information on our next steps soon, which will include opportunities to help us gather signature in the traditional face-to-face method and possibly a petition to sign to ask the Governor to allow us to gather signatures electronically. The Governor truly cares about the health of Nevadans, so we cannot think of a reason that would cause him to reject our request.

Here is what the judge noted in our case:

Here is the Judge’s full order:

Judicial Candidates Open (Zoom) House

Join the League of Women Voters of Nevada for opportunities to speak with our judicial candidates about what it means to be a good judge.

Many voters feel apprehensive about voting for judges because it’s hard to find information about what judges do every day, so we are inviting judicial candidates to meet with voters to discuss what judges actually do.

If you have questions about our judiciary or if you’re a candidate who is willing answer questions from voters, please RSVP for one or both of our Open Houses on Zoom:

Wednesday May 27, 2020 6 to 7:30 pm RSVP: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZItcu2tqzksHNOWfuEXjYGvukJBY7GmRzpo

Saturday June 6, 2020 1 to 2:30 pm RSVP: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0kcOqsqzMiG9SzfogfbFhT2Xy04QlwHS8Y

Judicial Races Research Discussion Group

The League of Women Voters of Nevada is hosting a Judicial Races Research Discussion Group in Zoom on Thursday, May 21st, from 6:30 to 8:00 pm.  We will review what the different courts do, qualities of a good judge, and how to do research on judicial candidates.

Register in advance for this meeting:
https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUscO2urz8iHdab8ynA-8bMWWcvwhZSrsSs

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Legal Motion to Gather Signatures Electronically

Fair Maps Nevada PAC filed a motion for a preliminary injunction on May 6, 2020, in federal district court to protect our and voters’ constitutional rights.  The Nevada Constitution includes a right to circulate an initiative petition and a right for voters to vote for or against ballot questions under Article 19, Section 2(1) and Article 2, Section 1.  While the U.S. Constitution protects the right to free speech and association and the right to vote and due process through the 1st and 14th amendments.

Due to the Governor’s emergency order to ‘stay at home’ and to practice social distancing when engaged in essential activities, which has now been extended to May 15th, we continue to be unable to circulate our amendment and voters are unable to sign our petition to qualify for the November ballot. 

We are, therefore, seeking a legal remedy that provides a secure, reliable, and virtual method to gather signatures as well as for a deadline extension to submit signatures for verification sufficient to replace time lost due to the state of emergency.  In both requests we ask for assistance that aligns with keeping Nevadans safe from COVID-19.

In a recent ruling on the Secretary of State’s power to interpret Nevada Revised Statutes to protect constitutional rights and the public’s health, Federal District Court Judge Miranda Du wrote that Secretary Cegavske was well within her sphere of power to enact regulations to carry out election laws for our upcoming primary election.  Writing about the Secretary’s decision to move to an all-mail-in voting plan, Judge Du wrote:

The Nevada Legislature has authorized the Secretary to enact voting regulations under NRS § 293.124. The section provides:

1. The Secretary of State shall serve as the Chief Officer of Elections for this State. As Chief Officer, the Secretary of State is responsible for the execution and enforcement of the provisions of title 24 of NRS and all other provisions of state and federal law relating to elections in this State.

2. The Secretary of State shall adopt such regulations as are necessary to carry out the provisions of [the election laws under Title 24—NRS Chapters 293–306].

Nevada Revised Statutes also places ballot questions under the authority of the Secretary of State through Title 24, Chapter 295.

We are confident the court will recognize and protect our right to circulate a petition and voters’ right to enact or reject our ballot question in these extraordinary and very dangerous times.  With redistricting coming in 2021, our redistricting reform amendment is timely, and it is vitally important that every Nevadan has the opportunity to debate, consider, and vote on the issue.

You can read our court motion here:

Fair Maps Nevada PAC et al v. Cegavske et al Motion