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August 31, 2015

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Miller’s voter identification proposal could ease way for same-day registration

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isaac brekken / associated press file

New U.S. citizens Jenette Chavez, 18, and Josue Cano, 20, fill out voter registration forms in August at the Lloyd D. George federal courthouse in Las Vegas in 2008.

To The Point

Secretary of State Ross Miller discusses his planned push for voter ID legislation in the next session. And Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey talks about his relationship with his counterpart in the Senate and chances for tax reform both this session and if Gov. Sandoval is re-elected.

Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller’s announcement this month that he would pursue a new voter identification approach sent Democrats sounding the voter suppression alarm bells, while Republicans applauded the news.

But the carrot Miller is trying to use to lure his liberal base back into the fold isn’t one that Republicans would relish chomping.

Miller hasn’t spoken much about it publicly, but privately he is working to assuage the concerns of liberal Democrats by touting the fact his idea for electronically linking driver’s license photos to the voting rolls could be a step toward same-day voter registration in Nevada.

Miller has proposed upgrading Nevada’s paper-based system for checking voters in at the polls with an electronic poll book, which would include driver’s license photos.

Linking the voting rolls with the driver’s license database would make it easier, and more secure, to register voters on Election Day, Miller said last week on the political talk show "To The Point."

“Once we get an electronic poll book, it obviously would create enough safeguards, it would be actually more secure to have somebody present themselves in person to register or confirm with the DMV their identity,” Miller said. “(We could) confirm they have a residential address through the online registration system and then obviously check and ensure their photo or at least take their photo before they are given access to the polling system.”

It’s one of the arguments Miller is using as he seeks to woo liberal activists who have been critical of his proposal.

Same-day voter registration has long been touted by many Democrats as a way to increase voter participation.

But many Republicans see it as a way to open the voting booth to fraud.

And that could be a poison pill for Miller’s idea, which had earned some early praise from Republican lawmakers who have been pushing for a voter ID law in Nevada.

“It hadn’t occurred to me that having a photo ID as one more of the tools to identify an eligible voter would necessarily be paving the way to same-day registration,” said Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, one of the leading Republicans to voice support for Miller’s proposal. “I don’t get the link and, myself anyway, I don’t think I would necessarily be supportive.

“I think if he were to combine it with same-day registration, he would find more difficulty in obtaining Republican support (for the electronic poll book).”

Miller has not said he will pursue same-day registration as part of his voter identification legislation.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 27 states have used some form of electronic poll book. Four of those states also do same-day voter registration.

So far, according to Miller, no other state includes a driver’s license photo in its electronic poll book. Minnesota’s secretary of state tried and failed to pass such a measure earlier this year.

Miller’s argument hasn’t necessarily won over those critical liberal activists, who argue a voter identification system is not needed in a state that has not experienced voter fraud.

“I know what it’s going to do and where he got the idea and how it could dovetail into same-day voter registration,” liberal activist Laura Martin said of the conversation she had with Miller after she publicly criticized his idea. “It could also prevent future voter ID laws. But my thing is, why do a bill to prevent a bad voter ID law?”

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