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STEVE SEBELIUS: Nevada an outlier when it comes to politics

Updated July 11, 2021 - 11:51 am

Nevada has always been an outlier.

It’s the state where wide-open gambling was legalized and turned a dusty desert railroad stop into an internationally known center for tourism. A state where, in many rural counties, prostitution is legal. An all-American state that joined the Union during a war fought to keep it intact, helped test nuclear weapons after World War II and is home today to the top fighter schools for the Navy and the Air Force.

Other states may have elected dead people, but have they elected dead pimps to office? Or sent a voting majority of a county commission to prison?

Welcome to Nevada, where we call that the average Tuesday.

So it’s no surprise that Nevada is an outlier when it comes to current political trends, too. If things go our way, the Silver State may cast the very first ballots of the 2024 presidential election!

But we’re an outlier in other ways. Where other states are imposing tighter rules on voting, Nevada is moving in the opposite direction.

In Florida and Georgia, the operating hours of mail-ballot drop boxes will be limited, according to The Washington Post. Florida also limits the number of ballots a person can drop off on behalf of non-family members. Georgia and Iowa now ban sending mail ballot applications to voters proactively. Iowa has shortened early voting hours and voting hours on Election Day. And, most famously, Georgia law prohibits giving food and water to people waiting in line to vote in person.

In Nevada, we already had two weeks of early voting before regular Election Day, allowing people to cast a ballot when picking up their groceries or shopping for new clothes at the mall. We already had the ability to register to vote on the day of the election (don’t worry; they check your eligibility before they count your ballot). We already automatically signed voters up at the DMV, so when the election rolls around and your mailbox, TV screen and mobile phone are filled with political ads, you’re ready to cast a ballot. And we already pioneered “voting centers,” which allow people to cast ballots anywhere in their county, even if it’s not their home precinct, and to have those ballots counted.

But now, thanks in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nevada has made it even easier to vote: A coronavirus-inspired program that sent ballots to all registered voters has been attenuated and made permanent: Now, all active registered voters will get a ballot in the mail before Election Day.

The state has also made it easier to have people collect your ballot and bring it to a mailbox or an election office to be counted. (Don’t worry; a voter’s signature on the envelope still has to match the one on file, and missing or mismatched signatures mean that ballot won’t be counted until the discrepancy is resolved.)

That’s not the only way Nevada differs from other states.

In many places, partisan redistricting benefits Republicans, as they draw lines designed to increase the numbers of GOP representatives in state and federal office. The Supreme Court helpfully facilitated this process with its 2019 decision in Rucho v. Common Cause, which declared most partisan redistricting beyond the reach of the judiciary to correct.

But here in Nevada, Democrats were ready to send the justices a fruit basket in thanks for Rucho because in the outlier state, partisan redistricting benefits the Democrats. That’s especially true because there’s a Democratic governor and a Democratically controlled Legislature for the first time in 20 years. And proposals to turn redistricting over to an independent commission (presumably charged with drawing more moderate “swing” districts) came to naught.

So in October, when state lawmakers gather for a special session to redraw state and federal lines, Democrats are expected to benefit, rather than Republicans. (Don’t worry; the GOP will still get a handful of safe seats in the deal, although probably not enough to make the party happy.)

Nevada may not be as rollicking as some states, such as California. Unlike Nevada, there are competent people running gubernatorial recalls in the Golden State, opening the ballot to all sorts of characters. Nevada’s governor race won’t feature actors or porn stars.

But our state still bucks national trends often enough to keep residents here on their toes. For that, we should all be thankful.

Contact Steve Sebelius at SSebelius@reviewjournal.com. Follow @SteveSebelius on Twitter.

A previous version of this column misstated when nuclear weapons testing began in Nevada.