Lombardo signs election worker protection bill amid rising partisan tensions

Jacob Solis
Jacob Solis
Gov. Joe Lombardo and Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar inside the old Assembly Chambers at the Capitol during a bill signing ceremony for SB406, introduced by Aguilar, which would make it a felony for any person to threaten election workers, in Carson City on May 30, 2023. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent).

With just days left in the legislative session, Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo joined Democratic Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar in a bill signing détente. 

In the old Assembly chambers of the historic Nevada Capitol on Tuesday, the two signed SB406 in their official capacity, a bill that would make threatening election workers a felony offense, allowing state law enforcement to pursue legal action against individuals who make such threats where at least one federal prosecution has faltered

The measure was one of Aguilar’s top campaign promises, a move that comes after county clerks and elections workers have raised serious concerns over the increasing number of threats following the 2020 presidential election. Threats that resulted in many leaving elections work altogether

“We were able to work together … and do the right thing, no matter what the partisanship is,” Lombardo said ahead of the signing. 

But it also comes under the backdrop of an increasingly tense legislative session as Democrats in control of both chambers have hit the brakes on Lombardo’s top policy priorities amid threats of a budget veto. 

SB406 was no exception. As a last-minute amendment before clearing the Assembly, new language was added that would prevent constitutional officers — including the secretary of state and attorney general — from fundraising for their re-election campaigns during the legislative session. 

The language mirrors an existing fundraising freeze required for legislators and the governor. But it also arrives as pro-Lombardo political groups have already sought to attack Democratic Attorney General Aaron Ford, seen as an early contender to challenge Lombardo in 2026. 

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Aguilar minimized any partisan elements of the addition, and downplayed its role in getting Lombardo to sign off on SB406 as a “different conversation.” 

“Obviously, we want to bring parity to the fundraising,” Aguilar said. “And as somebody who believes in transparency and equity, I think that amendment was a great idea … I didn't feel opposed to it at any time.”

Asked if he was concerned about other elections bills being caught in the fight between Lombardo and top Democrats, Aguilar also downplayed the potential for gubernatorial vetoes, calling much of his office’s legislation “operational issues,” rather than policy.

But pressed on if he would be satisfied if the only bill he got across the finish line was SB406, Aguilar said only: “Ask me that question after sine die.”

Editor’s Note: This story appears in Behind the Bar, The Nevada Independent’s newsletter dedicated to comprehensive coverage of the 2023 legislative session. Sign up for the newsletter here.


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