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ACLU drops lawsuit against Elko County after jail complies with inmate voting law

The ACLU also announced that six other local jails were complying with the new law after meeting with officials from the organization.
Eric Neugeboren
Eric Neugeboren
CourtsCriminal Justice

Elko County is now complying with a new Nevada law requiring all local jails to facilitate voting for eligible detainees, after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Nevada sued the county for noncompliance earlier this month.

The ACLU announced Thursday that it had settled with the county after it adopted all of the law’s provisions. The suit had alleged that the Elko County Sheriff’s Office was failing to comply with nine provisions of the 2023 law, including ensuring the secrecy of detainees’ ballots, guaranteeing that detainees can vote without intimidation and outlining a process for same-day voter registration.

The ACLU also said six other local jails are now fully complying with the law after meeting with ACLU officials, including those in Washoe and Clark counties.

“While it’s disappointing our jails would only implement such policies after demands and court filings, we remain encouraged by local governments to come into conformance with the law and remain grateful Elko County came to the negotiating table,” Athar Haseebullah, the organization’s executive director, said in a statement Thursday.

The announcement comes more than two months after the ACLU threatened to sue any jail not complying with the law, after the group had filed records requests to see if jails were complying and found that many were not. Elko County was the only jurisdiction to face a lawsuit.

The law (AB286) went into effect Jan. 1 and requires all county or city jails in Nevada to explicitly update their policies to allow any eligible detainees to register or vote in an election. The law also required jails to allow participants to vote with a reasonable amount of private and cure any defect with their ballot signature under certain circumstances.

Nevadans who have been convicted of a felony and remain in prison cannot vote, while those serving time in local jails for misdemeanors or who are detained awaiting a verdict have the right to vote if they are otherwise eligible.

In the February presidential preference primary, 23 people incarcerated at the Clark County Detention Center voted, while 26 Washoe County inmates voted and one Churchill County detainee participated, officials told lawmakers in March.

Elko’s response to the ACLU’s records request referred to a September policy that simply outlined the law’s provisions but did not outline the specific processes in place to ensure the law was being followed, according to the ACLU’s lawsuit, which also alleged the county did not respond to a letter demanding full compliance with the law.


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