Sunday, Sept. 3, 2023 | 2 a.m.
Editor’s note: As he traditionally does around this time every year, Brian Greenspun is turning over his Where I Stand column to others. Today’s guest is Nevada Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar.
Since I’ve become secretary of state, everyone wants to talk with me about elections (no matter how often I tell them that sometimes I’d love to talk about corporate filings instead).
It’s understandable; my office regulates elections and ensures that the county clerks and registrars across the state are fully and faithfully following the law. It’s become the most high-profile part of the job, especially since next year all eyes will be on Nevada for the 2024 presidential election cycle. We have an opportunity to make a difference in two huge ways: to determine who serves as president of the United States, and to be the gold standard for participation in the democratic process.
Elections are where all of Nevada’s communities make their voices heard. Urban, rural, all races and ethnicities, all occupations and life experiences: No matter which side you’re rooting for, or if you’re not rooting for any side at all, one simple way to make a big difference is to vote.
Nevadans don’t want to be put in boxes, and we appreciate that about each other. Our diversity is our beauty and our strength. Nevada demonstrates that diversity by having such a high proportion of nonpartisan and third-party voters, and being willing to vote split ticket so that every single vote truly matters.
Sadly, modern, divisive politics have led a dangerous, false narrative about our elections to take hold. Instead of having civil discussions about what’s important to us and why, and dealing rationally with the results of elections, people have chosen to question the conduct of the elections themselves. I’m not saying that sensible people can’t disagree, or that the electoral process can’t be improved. But far too often, people are becoming combative and argumentative about the practice of democracy itself.
In my first eight months as secretary of state, I have met with election officials across Nevada — clerks, registrars, administrative professionals and poll workers — and every single one of them does their job so the residents of our great state can vote on the future they want to see. They are on the frontlines of our democracy.
But the spread of irresponsible, false rhetoric about our elections that spurs violent behavior has only made their work more challenging.
Poll workers are the unsung heroes of our democracy, and I’ve been lucky enough to meet so many of them, all over the state. Almost every one of them has been volunteering at the polls for years, braving Las Vegas’ summer heat in the June primary and Reno’s winter storms during the November general. They shovel snow, check voters in, set up accommodations for people with disabilities and show you how to update your voter registration. Each of them says it’s gratifying to serve their state during election season, and they share stories about excited voters who thank them for working at the polls.
Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. One of them told me they’ve had angry voters come in accusing them of fraud, swearing at them and even reaching across tables to grab them.This kind of harassment has become too common across the United States, and it’s happening right here in Nevada.
Election departments are facing critical staff shortages due in large part to intimidation and harassment, as well as the burdensome task of running elections with funding shortages on a national and state level. In Nevada, by the new year, only six of 17 county election officials will have been in office during the 2020 election; the rest will have stepped down, retired or decided not to run for reelection. Election support personnel, in cities and counties and yes, in my office, have decided it was better to leave their jobs than deal with the harassment.
Elections don’t work without people. These workers are put under extreme pressure and are subjected to public scrutiny every election cycle. Still, they manage to run some of the most secure and accessible elections in this country. This work doesn’t happen on accident.
One poll worker, Vickie, shared how difficult it is to understand where this false narrative is coming from. “There’s no fraud, there’s none of that stuff. …We do everything we can.” Another volunteer reiterated the same: They are donating their time so that their friends, neighbors and people they’ve never met, can participate in the democratic process.
Protecting election workers so they can continue to run fair and transparent elections in the Silver State is absolutely critical. Your neighbors who volunteer to work at the polls, who register people to vote, who work year-round to make sure the election goes smoothly — those are the people making sure that your vote and your voice matters.
Without Vickie and people like her, it would be impossible to elect people that stand for your values, or to hold elected officials accountable. We need to take care of them. The future of our democracy, and Nevada, depend on it.
And before I forget: it’s National Voter Registration Month! I encourage you to register to vote or update your registration so you can exercise your fundamental rights. You can check if you’re eligible to register in-person at your local clerk or registrar office or online at registertovote.nv.gov. Learn more at nvsos.gov.
Read More: Democracy is about people, not politics