Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo vetoed a bill Thursday that would have criminalized fake elector schemes in the state. Fake elector schemes came to national attention during the 2020 presidential election, during which several swing states saw the creation of fake electoral college slates in favor of former President Donald Trump even though he lost the states’ popular votes to current President Joe Biden. The bill would have made Nevada the first state in the US to criminalize such schemes.
The bill, Senate Bill (SB) 133, would have prohibited any individual in Nevada from creating, serving or conspiring to create or serve in a false slate of presidential electors. The bill goes on to define a false slate of electors as “a list of presidential electors whose candidate for President and Vice President of the United States did not receive the highest number of votes in this State at the general election.” Violators would have faced a felony charge, punishable by up to ten years in prison and a potential $5,000 fine.
In vetoing the bill, Lombardo wrote, “[I]t is difficult to fathom how the penalty for being engaged in such a scheme should be harsher…than the penalty for high-level fentanyl traffickers, certain domestic violence perpetrators, and even some of the most extreme and violent actors on January 6[, 2021].” Lombardo said that while he wants to ensure the “sanctity and security” of Nevada’s elections, SB 133 “does nothing to ensure the security of our elections and merely provides disproportionately harsh penalties.”
The bill initially passed the Nevada Assembly with 28 votes in favor and 14 against on May 23. Before that, it was introduced and passed through the Nevada Senate with 11 votes in favor and 10 against.
It was first introduced by Senator Skip Daly (D-NV), one of the primary sponsors of the bill, in February. The bill later received support from the state’s attorney general, secretary of state and several other organizations. Those opposed to the bill voiced concerns similar to Lombardo’s over the proportionality of the proposed punishment. Speaking on behalf of the Clark County Public Defender’s Office, John Piro said, “Even in the face of public outrage and popular opinion, justice means nothing if it is not proportional, meaning the punishment must fit the crime. In S.B. 133, as drafted, this punishment is not proportional.”
The US House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the US Capitol discussed the 2020 presidential election’s fake electors plots in its December 2022 Final Report. The committee found that the Trump team attempted to convince Republican-controlled state legislatures in battleground states to reject the slate of electors chosen by the popular vote and replace them with electors chosen by state representatives—who would, notably, vote instead in favor of Trump.
In Nevada, a slate of fake electors did submit a certificate declaring Trump the winner of the 2020 presidential election. However, they were discovered, and the effort failed. In voicing support for SB 133, Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford said he would not pursue charges against the six individuals that participated in the scheme.