Groups sue to force Nevada county to remove illegal registrations from voter rolls 

People are still registered to vote from this vacant gravel parking lot in Reno, Nevada. Photo courtesy of the Public Interest Legal Foundation 
People are still registered to vote from this vacant gravel parking lot in Reno, Nevada. Photo courtesy of the Public Interest Legal Foundation 

By Steven Kovac 
Contributing Writer 

When the Nevada legislature mandated in 2021 that every active registered voter in the state would be mailed a ballot, the new law immediately provoked concern from election integrity advocates. 

As the 2024 presidential election approaches, that concern has turned into legal action. 

After several years of urging Nevada election officials to remove questionable commercial addresses from the voter rolls, the Public Interest Legal Foundation, along with a Nevada registered voter, on May 10 petitioned the state’s 2nd Judicial District Court to compel Washoe County to investigate and remove all illegal registrations. 

Nevada law forbids applicants for voter registration to list a business as their address unless they actually live there. The use of post office boxes for purposes of voter registration is also prohibited. 

A years-long investigation by PILF found that election clerks in populous counties like Washoe and Clark County are doing little to verify the validity of the claimed addresses, correct any errors, and maintain accurate voter rolls as required by state law. 

In support of its request for a writ of mandamus, the PILF provided the court with 48 examples with photos of questionable commercial addresses still on the voter rolls in Washoe County. 

“Nevada’s policy of automatically mailing a ballot to every active registered voter makes it essential that election officials have accurate voter rolls and are not mailing ballots to addresses where no one lives,” said the PILF in a recent statement. 

If successful, the foundation’s legal action against Washoe County will serve as an impetus for other counties in the Silver State to investigate commercial addresses on the voter rolls and cancel improper registrations, said Lauren Bowman Bis, PILF’s director of communications. 

Hundreds of Questionable Addresses Found 

Bis said that her group purchased a copy of the official Nevada state voter roll and had investigators comb through it in search of commercial addresses recorded as the residences of registered voters. 

Finding hundreds of questionable registrations on the rolls, a team of PILF investigators went into the streets to investigate and document potential violations. 

Leading a video crew from the foundation, Bis and her team spent a week in Nevada, making scores of physical visits to addresses in Clark County. Wherever possible, she and the crew went inside to talk to people and see if anybody could be living at that address. The team looked for any sign of living quarters that they could reasonably consider to be legitimate. 

“We were very conservative in our assessments. If we believed there could be an apartment for a caretaker of a storage unit on the premises, or a family living above their business, or if the building was some kind of rehab center, we did not count that location,” she said. 

Bis said that she visited numerous parking lots and vacant lots from which multiple people are registered to vote, some for years. She said she inspected restaurants, tattoo parlors, art galleries, office buildings, liquor stores, massage parlors, tire stores, and bars but found no evidence of residences. 

“When we would go into a bar and inquire if a person on the voter roll resided there, people would often laugh and say they never heard of anybody living in here or registered to vote from here,” Bis said. “That was typical. It’s crazy how many places like that are still on the voter rolls. Obviously, somebody is not doing their job. In fact, Washoe officials are fighting not to do their job.” 

Marc Elias Law Group Intervenes 

On May 28, the Elias Law Group of Washington, together with the firm of Bravo Schrager LLP of Las Vegas, filed a motion to intervene in the case so they could argue against the requested court order to clean up the voter rolls. 

Marc Elias is a longtime, nationally recognized Democrat lawyer and political activist. 

The above attorneys represent three would-be intervening respondents — the Institute for a Progressive Nevada, the Rise Action Fund, and the Nevada Alliance for Retired Americans. 

All three parties claim they would be harmed if the PILF’s petition for a writ of mandamus is granted by the court. Each party contends that the budgets with which they fund their core activities and missions would have to be reworked to pay for the new priority of voter education programs so voters could learn how to ascertain if they were still registered to vote after election clerks are ordered by the court to cancel thousands of registrations. 

The groups contend that PILF did not follow the statutorily specified procedure for challenging a person’s registration status and that the petitioners lack standing to do so. 

The motion to intervene claims that county clerks are not obliged by statute to “accept or investigate any information from non-governmental third parties.” 

“Election officials in this state are currently beset by unjustified, baseless efforts to impugn the accuracy of Nevada’s voter rolls and force a rushed purge of voters before the 2024 general election,” the motion said. 

Nevada is regarded by political analysts as a key swing state that is important to the Electoral College strategy of both the Joe Biden and Donald Trump campaigns. The state has six electoral votes. 

Under the provisions of the National Voter Registration Act, the Republican National Committee and the Nevada Republican Party “have sued state and county officials in federal court, seeking to force a voter purge,” according to the would-be intervenors’ filing. 

Bowman said the PILF intends to oppose the motion to intervene. 

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