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Nevada Governor Signs Law to Protect Election Workers, Enhancing Penalties for Intimidation

By TheNevadaGlobeStaff, June 1, 2023 2:09 pm

NEVADA – Nevada’s Republican Governor, Joe Lombardo, signed a new law on Tuesday that imposes stricter penalties for individuals who harass, intimidate, or use force against election workers while they perform their duties. The legislation aims to deter attacks on those working in state and local election offices, who have faced increased scrutiny and threats following baseless claims and conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 presidential race.

Democratic Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar, who has been advocating for enhanced protections for election workers, stated that threats and intimidation towards election workers have escalated significantly in Nevada and across the country. Similar measures to safeguard election officials have been implemented in states like Maine, Vermont, Washington, and New Mexico.

The bill received unanimous approval from both chambers of Nevada’s Democratic-controlled Legislature and was a key campaign promise from Secretary of State Aguilar. He highlighted the departure of election workers from the state due, in part, to the heightened threats they have experienced. The law also criminalizes the dissemination of personal information about election workers without their consent, making it a felony offense.

During the bill signing ceremony, Secretary of State Aguilar emphasized his commitment to supporting election workers, while Governor Lombardo stood alongside him. The two officials have recently been at odds over Lombardo’s proposal to require voter ID, which Aguilar opposes, and legislative Democrats have deemed a non-starter.

Between the 2020 election and the 2022 midterms, over half of Nevada’s top election officials in the 17 counties resigned, citing election threats. Numerous staff members also stepped down, including a significant exodus from the secretary of state’s election department ahead of the 2022 midterms. Reasons for the departures included election burnout and better opportunities elsewhere, according to the office.

Secretary of State Aguilar’s commitment to protecting election workers and restoring trust in the electoral process became a contrasting point with his opponent, Republican Jim Marchant, who led a coalition seeking to undermine the electoral system. Despite the split-ticket outcome, several election deniers were defeated in statewide elections in Nevada. Lombardo, endorsed by former President Donald Trump, has distanced himself from Trump’s false claims of a stolen 2020 election, acknowledging a minimal amount of fraud but not enough to sway the outcome.

Another bill awaiting Governor Lombardo’s decision would criminalize “fake electors,” referring to individuals who falsely signed certificates stating that a candidate won a particular state and submitted them to the National Archives, as six Nevada GOP members did in 2020. The governor’s office declined to take a specific stance on that legislation, which proposes higher-level felony charges for fake electors than the law signed on Tuesday.

The new law comes in the wake of a federal court acquittal of a Las Vegas man who made threatening calls to the Nevada Secretary of State’s office the day after the January 6, 2020, attack on the Capitol. The indictment accused Gjergi Luke Juncaj of hurling derogatory remarks, including accusations of election theft and treason. The incident underscored the need for stronger protections for election workers.

Under the newly signed law, individuals found guilty of harassing, intimidating, or using force against election workers could face one to four years in state prison, with the possibility of probation, mirroring the penalties for similar acts against voters.

Credits: Fox Reno

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