UPDATE: Nevada's chief elections officer is extending the deadline to register to vote by mail amid concerns that the current deadline violates federal law.
Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske told the Associated Press late Friday that she's asking all 17 Nevada county clerks and registrars to accept registration forms postmarked as late as Oct. 11.
Nevada Democrats have notified the secretary of state that Saturday’s voter registration deadline violates federal law because it falls outside of a mandated 30-day window before the election.
If the SOS does not extend the deadline to Tuesday, the Democrats are prepared to take legal action to force the state to comply with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, the letter says. Saturday is 31 days before Election Day, and the next two days are a weekend day and a holiday (Columbus Day). Both Barbara Cegavske, the SOS, and Adam Laxalt, the attorney general who would have to defend any suit, are Republicans.
“Nevada accepts in-person and online voter registration applications through October 18,” wrote Marc Elias, a nationally known elections lawyer. “This, however, is not a suitable substitute for registration by mail. Many Nevadans live far from a County Clerk or Registrar. In-person registration is not an option for these individuals. Further, many Nevadans do not have ready access to the Internet or may not possess the Nevada ID required for online registration. The availability of alternate forms of registration—particularly ones available only to certain segments of the population—does not bring Nevada into compliance with the NVRA’s requirement that a state must make registration by mail available until at least 30 days before an election.”
The Nevada Democrats’ letter comes a few days after Sens. Chuck Schumer and Pat Leahy raised this issue with the Department of Justice about several states. Some of those, including Washington and Utah, have taken action to fix deadlines to comply.
The letter ends with a non-veiled threat to sue.
"We urge you to take similar action. If this arbitrary and illegal deadline results in the disenfranchisement of even a single Nevada voter, it will not only violate the NVRA, but also violate the Constitutional rights of Nevadans," Elias wrote. "If Nevada fails to extend the deadline voluntarily, it risks subjecting itself to legal action by the Nevada State Democratic Party and others to ensure that federal law is enforced and the fundamental right to vote is upheld in the state of Nevada. Accordingly, counties should be instructed to retain and segregate applications received with a postmark through October 11th so those applications can be promptly processed and those voters are able to vote in November. "
This could be a significant issue in a state where Democrats have a sizable advantage -- 77,000 voters and 5.6 percent -- but have not achieved the margins of 2008 and 2012. And the importance is emphasized by two top-of-the-ticket races for president and U.S. Senate that are tossups. I am told the Democrats will continue to file registration applications through Tuesday.