A Nevada voter casts a vote in the 2020 primary election. (Nevada Current file photo)
A 2020 ballot question will ask Nevada voters if a new section guaranteeing specific voting rights should be added to the state constitution.
Question 4 would take voter rights currently set in state statute and enshrine them in the state constitution, including the right to vote on Election Day or during early voting and guarantees to equal access to elections without discrimination, intimidation or coercion. It also guarantees voters can have their ballots recorded accurately based on a uniform, statewide standard, among other rights.
First introduced as a joint resolution in 2017, Question 4 passed the state Senate and Assembly that year and again in 2019 when it was then referred to the 2020 general election ballot. If approved by voters, it will change the state constitution.
In 2003, the Nevada State Legislature passed a similar declaration of voters’ rights as a state statute which passed both the Assembly and the state Senate unanimously.
The 2020 ballot question is supported by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson and state Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, both Democrats from Clark County
The ballot question has no formal opponents, however, arguments against its passage state that voting rights are already ensured in both the U.S. and Nevada constitution, making the ballot measure unnecessary. Arguments also state that future advances in technology may make several methods of voting addressed by Question 4 — such as written ballots, polling places, and even in-person voting — obsolete.
While the U.S. Constitution bans voting discrimination based on race, sex and age, it does not explicitly state that all U.S. citizens have a right to vote, leaving specific voting procedures up to states.
The measure’s supporters reason that with the measure in place “any attempts to diminish or otherwise interfere with voting rights or with election outcomes in Nevada will be much more difficult to accomplish with these constitutional protections in place.”
In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), stripping the Justice Department of the powers it had curb to racial discrimination in voting by means of literacy tests, poll taxes, and voting restrictions that had disenfranchised millions of minority voters for decades. The court also gutted provisions that required areas of the country with a history of using discriminatory tactics to get federal approval before making any changes to voting.
The belief is that enshrining an explicit right to vote in the state constitution would guarantee the voting rights of all eligible voters.
Ballot Question 4 is anticipated to have no financial impact on state or local governments, according to the Office of the Secretary of State.
Protections on the ballot include the constitutional right to:
- Receive and cast a ballot with clear identification of candidates and accurate records of the voter’s selection of candidates
- Have questions on voting procedures answered with an explanation of voting procedures clearly visible at polling locations
- Vote without being intimidated, threatened, or coerced
- Vote during any period of early voting or on Election Day if the voter has not yet voted, and the ability to vote after the time the polls close as long as the voter is already waiting in line
- Return a spoiled ballot and receive a replacement ballot
- Request assistance in voting, if needed
- Receive a sample ballot that is accurate, informative, and delivered in a timely manner as provided by law
- Receive instruction on the use of voting equipment during any period of early voting or on Election Day
- Have equal access to the elections system without discrimination
- Have a uniform, statewide standard for counting and recounting all votes accurately as provided by law
- Have complaints about elections and election contests resolved fairly, accurately, and efficiently as provided by law
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