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Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald speaks outside the state Legislature on Monday, April 1, 2019 (Joey Lovato/The Nevada Independent)

The Nevada Republican Party is seeking to intervene in a lawsuit that Democrats have filed over a proposal to convert the June primary election into a virtually all-mail affair.

The motion, filed Wednesday in the First District Court in Carson City, would mean the state party and the Republican National Committee are defending a plan backed by Nevada’s Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske. But it also puts the Republicans in opposition to some unlikely bedfellows —  both the state Democratic Party and a conservative group that says it fears voter fraud oppose Cegavske’s proposal for different reasons.

“Democrats know they can’t win this election fair and square. That is why they are using this pandemic to get wholesale elections rules changes they’ve long sought through our courts," said Michael McDonald, chairman of the Nevada GOP, in a press release announcing the motion. "No one is above Nevada law, and that especially goes for D.C. lawyers looking to game the system.”

Cegavske announced in late March that the state would conduct its June primary almost entirely using mail-in ballots, citing fears of unintentionally spreading COVID-19 if large numbers of voters gathered to cast ballots at physical polling locations.

She said early voting would be available, but at a very limited number of locations.

The Nevada State Democratic Party and a long list of progressive organizations have since said they applaud the effort to prevent the spread of the virus, but think that limiting in-person voting would create “certain risks and hardships” to voters unaccustomed to voting by mail. Democrats also want Cegavske to suspend a law that prevents non-family members from collecting and returning a voter’s ballot — a practice known pejoratively as “ballot harvesting.”

Additionally, Democrats are asking in their lawsuit for mail-in ballots to be sent to all registered voters, not just those whose voter history indicates they are “active.”

McDonald said the Democrats who are suing are trying to skirt safeguards that make the election process safe and fair.

“Never mind the health risks associated with allowing strangers to show up at the doorstep of a voter, it is confounding that anyone would consider a process that would allow political operatives to take an unsigned ballot from a voter to be secure,” McDonald said.

Republicans are arguing that they should intervene because they have equal and opposite interests as the Democratic plaintiffs.
It’s the latest chapter in the legal saga for the vote-by-mail plan. On Tuesday, the right-leaning, Texas-based voting fraud prevention group True the Vote sued Cegavske, saying that a large number of unrequested, unexpected ballots arriving in mailboxes in Nevada “invites voter fraud,” which could in turn dilute legitimate votes with fraudulent ones.

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