Negotiating Nevada’s 2020 General Election

Though Nevada’s recent primary election was all by mail and went well, all-mail elections are not the new normal in Nevada, and if voters want to continue mailing their ballots, they have to request an absentee ballot, and they can make that request permanent. Well, as we all know, these are not normal times, so election procedures have changed again.

The second Special Session of the Nevada Legislature passed AB 4, and there’s a lot of confusion about it. Here’s what you need to know:

1. If you requested an absentee ballot, you don’t need to do anything. You will receive a paper ballot that you can mark and return, either by mail or by delivering it to the County Registrar. Also, there’s another option, explained below.

2. If you have not requested an absentee ballot, you’ll get a mail-in ballot anyway. Again, these are not normal times, and AB 4 authorizes all-mail elections in times when the Governor has declared a state of emergency. Such a state is in place as preparations are made for the election, so the emergency rule of mail for everyone applies. However, if America ever gets back to “normal” times, Nevada goes back to the regular rules, and voting by mail will be via absentee ballot only.

3. Only active, registered voters will receive a ballot in the mail. This is different from the primary and designed to save the cost of sending ballots that are undeliverable or will not be used. A registered voter is one whose information is on file with the County Registrar, whose identity was verified at registration, etc. An active voter is one whose address is valid. So, it is possible to be a registered voter but not be active because the Registrar does not have a good address for you. There is a place on the Secretary of State website to check your address and correct anything that’s wrong. Go to “Active” is not related to when you last voted, so if you did not vote in the primary, or haven’t voted for years, you’ll still get a ballot in the mail so long as you’re registered and your address is good.

4. Although it’s very much discouraged, you can ask someone to hand deliver or mail your ballot for you. Anyone can do this—you don’t have to be disabled and it doesn’t have to be a family member who does it for you. However, if the helper fails to deliver the ballot, or does it after November 3, you’re out of luck—your vote doesn’t count.

5. There will still be in-person voting sites, just like there were for the primary. AB 4 addresses the long lines at the polls in June by setting a minimum number of locations for both early voting and election day. Clark County will have at least 35 early voting in person locations, and at least 100 vote centers on election day. (According to the Secretary of State, Clark is planning 159 centers.) Washoe County is required to have at least 15 early voting locations and 25 vote centers on election day. The smaller counties must have at least one early voting site and at least one vote center on election day. An important note: If you wish to vote in person, you still need to bring in and surrender your mail-in ballot. Then you’ll vote as usual.

6. There has been a lot of concern about voter fraud. The Secretary of State has set up elaborate procedures that are uniform across the state to combat this. Every voter’s signature is on file with the Secretary of State. Every voter must sign the transmittal envelope when they return their ballot. The two are compared before the ballot is counted, and if they don’t match, a letter goes out. If you get such a letter, it’s important to respond, and you can do so online and several other ways. Failure to “cure” a question about whether it was you who filled out the ballot will result in the ballot being disqualified. People have wondered whether a person could vote by mail and then go to a polling site and vote again. Procedures to prevent multiple votes have been in place for a long time. When you check in at a polling site, they call up your name on a statewide database, and if you already mailed a ballot or already voted across town, it will show up.

7. It is not true that there is a grace period to mail a ballot after November 3. Ballots must be postmarked (or delivered) not later than November 3. The Registrar will continue to accept mailed ballots for three days after election day, but only those bearing a November 3 postmark. The grace period is to allow the post office to do its part.

There is a lot of misinformation circulating. LEAN encourages everyone to be engaged with the candidates and the issues, but avoid spreading confusion about the process. Anyone who has concerns should call or visit their County Registrar or look at the Secretary of State website. That’s the place for authoritative, up-to-date information.

The main thing is do vote, and do so no later than November 3.

Nevada’s Hard Road Ahead

Covid-19, Black Lives Matter Present Challenges and Opportunities

Here we are, going into the second half of the epic year 2020, and Nevadans are feeling the pain.

First came the coronavirus pandemic that shut down our normal lives and the economy along with it, costing Nevadans the highest percentage of job loss, per state, in United States history.  More recently we’ve seen an eruption of anger and activism focused on the racism that seethes beneath the surface of our ostensibly civil society. 

Economic collapse and structural racism must be addressed, and Nevada is going to have to deal with them together.  Gov. Steve Sisolak has called a special session of the Legislature, which begins on July 8. Assembly and senate members have to deal with an $800 million budget deficit this year and a projected $1.3 billion shortfall next year; the governor has already proposed painful budget cuts, including deep slashes to education and health care. Tax revenue dried up when the economy shut down. Nevada has historically been vulnerable to the “boom-bust” economic cycle because of its heavy reliance on gaming and sales tax. Perhaps now is the time to revisit the state’s outdated property tax structure. But that fix must wait while we deal with our immediate situation: not enough money to pay the bills.

There has been a lot in the news about demands to “de-fund” police departments as a means of curbing police violence.  That is an unfortunate term, and for most people, it doesn’t mean completely wiping out police forces, but rather, shifting resources away from police agencies and toward social services that address the problems for which police are typically called.

A process we might better call “reallocation” sounds like it would be a simple “revenue neutral” process.  Unfortunately, that’s not true. Police agencies have been tasked with all kinds of duties that could and should be handled by other professionals, precisely because budgets for other agencies have been cut.  Over the years, legislatures throughout the country, and in Nevada as well, have found it politically convenient to under-resource mental health, housing, job training, and more. It’s politically convenient to cut such services because the main beneficiaries are the poor and people of color—those who have little or no voice in the legislative process.

Lutheran Engagement and Advocacy in Nevada exists to speak for these groups.

LEAN advocate Bill Ledford will be at the Legislature’s regular session when it convenes in February 2020, but in the meantime, he and the LEAN board will keep tabs on developments at the special session. (The public can follow developments here).We will do all we can to ensure that those who have no voice are represented in very tough budget negotiations. Shifting funds from law enforcement seems to us a productive way to address the problems that hold minorities down. The police would be grateful to be “de-funded” in this way.

For us Lutheran Christians, the budget fight is not just a political exercise; this is a moral crisis we must face. The ELCA has moved forward boldly to acknowledge our collective and institutional sin of racism. For us in Nevada, accepting the prospect of higher taxes may be part of that. Reallocation of resources to promote equality must be.

Lenny Dunca, an ELCA pastor and author of the book Dear Church: A Love Letter From A Black Preacher, describes the Lutheran church as “the whitest denomination in the country.” Many white Lutherans have attended protest rallies and marches.  Many more of us have wondered what to do to help.  Pastor Duncan was recently interviewed on NPR and was asked that same question. “White denominations need to show up, share their wealth, and let people of color and street activists lead,” he said.  While tax policy or law enforcement can’t be changed overnight, those who are able can certainly donate to groups that work against bias in the justice system, that work for housing equity, for voting rights, and related causes.

LEAN will be at the Legislature to work on these issues, but we can’t do it alone. We’d love to hear from our Christian brothers and sisters on how they think Nevadans can better work together to bring about equitable social change in our state – and how LEAN can best represent them to legislators. Feel free to e-mail your thoughts, concerns and ideas to

LEAN Supports Nevada Covid-19 Hunger Relief

Lutheran Engagement and Advocacy in Nevada (LEAN) recently received a wonderful  surprise gift. A very large donation came through the Sierra Pacific Synod from St. John’s Lutheran Church of Sunnyvale, California.  This blessing arrived the first week of April, in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown, and just as the state unemployment offices were being overwhelmed with claims.

Volunteers from the Food Bank of Northern Nevada take part in a drive to help hungry residents through the Covid-19 shutdown.

LEAN  was aware that food pantries throughout Nevada were likewise being overwhelmed. Although LEAN’s mission is advocacy to address the root causes of hunger and poverty, the board recognized that a direct response to the emergency was appropriate, and also wanted to make a tithe in gratitude for the gift.

Northern Nevada is in the Sierra Pacific Synod, and Southern Nevada is in Grand Canyon Synod. LEAN’s board decided to contribute to feeding programs in both Synods.  A gift of $5,000 went to Food Bank of Northern Nevada. The Food Bank is an industrial-scale operation that supplies food pantries throughout Northern Nevada, including Elko, Winnemucca, and other locations in what we refer to as “the rurals.”

“The Food Bank is so grateful to partners like LEAN,” said Nicole Lamboley, President and CEO of the Food Bank of Northern Nevada. “We are seeing significant increases in families who need our help during this crisis and we wouldn’t be able to meet that need without partners who share our passion for helping our neighbors.”  The photos in this article are of a one-day event in Reno which served 900 families. 

Southern Nevada has multiple food assistance programs, but LEAN is especially close to Lutheran Social Services of Nevada.  LSSN offers many types of services, and among them is a food bank.  This food bank is unique in Nevada, having pioneered “Digi-Mart.”  This is an online shopping application. Pre-approved clients can order the items desired, and LSSN workers assemble the orders for client pickup. This has been particularly beneficial during the Covid-19 crisis because contact between client and LSSN staff is reduced.  LSSN people simply drop the order in the trunk of the client’s  car.  The ability to choose enhances client dignity and autonomy and reduces waste of unwanted products.

Digi-Mart has experienced a huge increase in demand.  On one recent morning, LSSN delivered food equal to 60% of what would normally be distributed in a month.  LSSN leadership posted on its Facebook page the following comment: “Thank you to our partners at Lutheran Engagement and Advocacy in Nevada (LEAN) for your gift of $5,400 to help with our Covid-19 Emergency Distribution in the Digi-Mart! Your support will help us continue to combat hunger at a critical time in our community and in our world. We are so grateful!”

A different agency serves Nye, Esmeralda, and Lincoln Counties, so a tithe of the gift allocated to Southern Nevada went to Nye Communities Coalition. This is an “umbrella” organization that assists other service agencies by providing resources and coordination.

Tammi Odegard, Chief Operating Officer of Nye Communities Coalition, said, “Your donation has allowed us to ‘fill the gaps’ where grant funds won’t allow or don’t exist.  With the new (and ever-changing) CDC guidelines, the food banks are being saddled with additional expenses for personal protective equipment for their volunteers/staff. To date, your donation has allowed us to purchase masks and gloves for the local food banks. They have been so appreciative, as the donations they receive are usually restricted to food only.”

Ms. Odegard added, “Thank you again for your generosity, we are hopeful we can continue to partner together to benefit the communities in Nye, Esmeralda, and Lincoln counties.”

LEAN shares that hope.

ELCA Bishop: Care For Each Other In Age of Coronavirus

Note: On March 8, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton issued the following letter regarding coronavirus and COVID-19, the resulting illness now spreading around the world. It also appeared on the ELCA website.

In 1527 the plague returned to Wittenberg, Germany. Two hundred years earlier the plague had swept across Europe killing up to 40% of the population. Understandably, people were anxious and wondered what a safe and faithful response might be. In answer to this, Martin Luther wrote “Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague.” In it, he emphasized the duty to care for the neighbor, the responsibility of government to protect and provide services to its citizens, a caution about recklessness, and the importance of science, medicine and common sense.

Wittenberg, Germany

To provide care for the neighbor, Luther recommended that pastors, those in public office, doctors and public servants should remain in the city. Luther himself remained in Wittenberg to care for his people. He recommended that public hospitals be built to accommodate those with the plague. He condemned those who took unnecessary risks that put themselves and others in danger of contagion. Luther also encouraged the use of reason and medicine, writing,

“God has created medicines and has provided us with intelligence to guard and take care of the body. … Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence”

(“Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague,” 1527).

We are living in the time of the coronavirus. We are also living in the time of social media and constant, relentless news coverage. Many of our people have the same concerns as those in Luther’s day. Many of our people are anxious. Luther’s counsel, based on Scripture, is still sound. Respect the disease. Do not take unnecessary risks. Provide for the spiritual and physical needs of the neighbor. Make use of medical aid. Care for one another, especially the most vulnerable.

The churchwide organization recommends the following for churchwide staff: Wash your hands, stay home when you are sick, wear a mask if you have symptoms, consult your medical provider. Bishops and pastors will provide guidelines for worship and church gatherings.

Luther also reminded his people and us that we should trust God’s faithfulness and promises, particularly the promise eternal life. Paul writes:

“ If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.”

Romans 14:8

In peace,

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

A Lenten Message From Sierra Pacific Synod

The following message from Sierra Pacific Synod Bishop Mark Holmerud originally appeared in the synod’s February 26, 2020 newsletter.

[Recently], as a group of ELCA leaders visited and prayed on both sides of the border with Mexico, the California Assembly issued an apology for the role our state played in rounding up about 120,000 people during WWII – mainly U.S. citizens – and moving them into 10 concentration camps, including two in California. 78 years ago, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans. In a unanimous vote, the Assembly passed the following resolution:

“Resolved by the Assembly of the State of California, That the Assembly apologizes to all Americans of Japanese ancestry for its past actions in support of the unjust exclusion, removal, and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, and for its failure to support and defend the civil rights and civil liberties of Japanese Americans during this period.”

I remember my mother telling me that one of her best friends, who was Japanese American, was suddenly taken from their Linda Vista neighborhood in San Diego along with her family and never heard from again. My mother’s family, who were of German heritage and who spoke German in the home, faced no such reprisals. They were white.

The history of our country in its treatment of people of color is nothing less than shameful and horrific. In addition to the internment of Japanese American citizens during WWII, there is the decimation and colonization of the Indigenous peoples of America, the enslavement of people who were brought here in chains from Africa and the continuing discrimination people of African heritage deal with every day. Recently, government policies have been enacted that are separating Latinx families at the border who are seeking to immigrate to this country. Having just experienced what is happening at our southern border, I wonder, will it take nearly 80 years before the California Assembly or the United States Congress issues an apology to those who have sought asylum, refuge and justice from the people of a nation whose pledge of allegiance to our flag ends with the words “with liberty and justice for all?”

White Privilege, xenophobic attitudes and government policies foster other forms of race-based discrimination, oppression and violence. There are deep racial divides in our country. What does our church have to say about this and others who have been victimized? The history of violence towards and the repression of women seeking gender equality is a struggle that is far from over, just as the continuing struggle of LGBTQIA+ people seeking equity, access and safety is an ongoing concern in many parts of this country.

In the recent past, our ELCA has adopted statements which are offered as public apologies, teaching tools, and aspirations for how the Gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to see people as Jesus saw everyone – as a beloved child of God. These actions were taken as strong statements of our intention to seek and serve those who continue to cry out for justice, and who look to us as Christ’s representatives on Earth to be agents of peace and reconciliation. I invite you to follow the links below and wonder with others in your congregation / community / ministry how these statements might become conversations, ministries, actions — “God’s work with our Hands” — in and through your ministry for the community you have been called to serve.


Bp. Mark Holmerud