U.S. District Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Criminalizing Attempts to Influence Election Officials

A lawsuit challenging a new Nevada law, making it a crime to try to influence election officials, has been rejected. Judge Cristina Silva of the U.S. District tossed out the case filed against Nevada Senate Bill 406.

The bill, amending current legislation, declares it unlawful for individuals to intimidate or use threats to unduly influence elections officials “with the intent to interfere with the performance of any elections official” or “retaliate against any elections official.”

Nevada residents filed a lawsuit against the bill, enacted in 2023 by Republican Governor Joe Lombardo. They argued that since the law doesn’t specify who qualifies as an election official, it could encompass election observers or members of the public permitted by law to oversee voting at polling sites.

Observers “may potentially not only be a victim of SB 406 but also be subject to a prosecution under SB 406, for a Class E felony, if an election observer vocally objects to any conduct which may be subjectively viewed as intimidation or undue influence, by a purported victim under SB 406,” the lawsuit stated.

It also claimed that neither “intimidation” nor “undue influence” are defined, raising concerns about how the law will be applied.

“If a ‘rover’ confronts a ballot inspector over an inspector’s perceived wrongful conduct, with the intent to have that wrongful conduct corrected, and the inspector feels intimidated, under SB 406 that subjects the rover to criminal liability,” the residents said.

“Moreover, if a ballot inspector confronts another ballot inspector outside the central ballot processing area/election office/warehouse, about perceived wrongful conduct, with an intent to correct it, that may subject a ballot inspector to criminal liability for intimidation or undue influence,” they added.

Sigal Chattah, a committeewoman for the Republican National Committee, is representing the plaintiffs.

Nevada officials have stood by the law and pressed the court to throw out the case. They argued that the residents failed to show they had standing, or the right to challenge the law, and did not outline legitimate relief for the court to grant.

The residents, all with prior experience working in elections, claimed that the law would prevent their future involvement in election activities. However, Judge Silva stated that they did not “allege a credible threat of prosecution.”

“Plaintiffs are not required to, nor do they, allege that they will be prosecuted; rather, that the fear of criminal prosecution has dissuaded plaintiffs from working as poll workers in future elections and thus has chilled their constitutional rights,” the judge, an appointee of President Joe Biden, wrote.

“Even if plaintiffs are right that the threat will be ‘subjectively applied’ to the specifics of SB 406, nothing about this threat is ‘specific’ or directed toward plaintiffs,” she added.

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In 2023, the judge dismissed a previous complaint but permitted the plaintiffs to submit a amended lawsuit. However, this time around, she dismissed the case with prejudice.

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By Hunter Fielding
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