Corona v. Cegavske: Nevada Dems go to court over upcoming all-mail primary

Wisconsin election day
Election Day in Wisconsin. (Photo: Henry Redman, Wisconsin Examiner)
Wisconsin election day
Election Day in Wisconsin. (Photo: Henry Redman, Wisconsin Examiner)

After Nevada’s top election official summarily rebuked demands for changes to the all-mail primary planned for June, Democrats are taking their concerns about voter access to the courthouse.

The Nevada State Democratic Party, along with three national Democratic organizations and four Nevada residents, filed a lawsuit in the Eighth Judicial District Court of Clark County. They are asking the court to compel Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske to mail ballots to all registered voters regardless of their active/inactive status, to increase the number of polling locations available during the early vote period and on election day, and to bar enforcement of certain state laws dealing with who is allowed to return ballots and why ballots are rejected.

Cegavske, Attorney General Aaron Ford and the top election officials in Clark, Washoe and Elko counties are listed as defendants.

Nevada Democrats say in their filing they support an all-mail primary but that it must be held in conjunction with adequate in-person options. According to their press release announcing the lawsuit, 87 percent of the population would be funnelled to two vote centers. They fear this will result in long lines, such as those seen in Wisconsin’s primary elections held earlier this month.

Listed as plaintiffs alongside the Nevada Democrats are the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Priorities USA, the Democratic Party’s largest super PAC. The suit also has four individual plaintiffs: Daniel Corona, Darin Mains, and Brian and Teresa Melendez.

The individual plaintiffs are representatives of scenarios where mail-in ballots are a challenge, something voting rights advocates have warned about as the nation grapples with how to uphold democracy amid a pandemic.

Corona is the mayor of West Wendover in Elko County who receives his mail at a post office box and lives more than 100 miles away from the only in-person options proposed for the primary. Mains is a UNLV student. His voter registration is tied to his on-campus housing but the campus closure has him displaced and temporarily residing in Henderson. Brian and Teresa Melendez are members of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony who are moving from the reservation to Sparks in the next month, putting them at risk of missing their mailed ballot.

Corona is the first plaintiff listed, making the suit’s name Corona v. Cegavske.

“I understand the intention behind the decision to make changes to our primary election and applaud the expansion of vote by mail,” said Nevada State Democratic Party Chair William McCurdy in a statement, “but we must do more to ensure every Nevadan has the opportunity to make their voice heard. It is possible to adapt our election process to meet our current circumstances in a way that prioritizes the safety and wellbeing of Nevadans without compromising the integrity of our elections.”

Sen. Jacky Rosen, former Sen. Harry Reid and a slew of local Democratic organizations have released statements in support of the changes proposed by the Nevada Democrats.

Cegavkse, the lone Nevada Republican holding a statewide office, pushed back on those suggestions, saying in a statement released by her office Tuesday: “The Nevada State Democratic Party asks me to ignore laws that were enacted by the Nevada Legislature. … We are a nation of laws. My job … is to faithfully execute and enforce state election laws as written.”

The suit in its entirety can be downloaded or viewed here.

April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. April currently serves on the board of the Society of Professional Journalists Las Vegas pro chapter. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, two children and three mutts.