Las Vegas Sun

October 23, 2014

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Judge hears challenges to Nevada voter ID measure

CARSON CITY — Critics of a proposal pushed by conservative activist Sharron Angle to require photo identification to vote in Nevada argued Wednesday that the measure fails to inform voters of possible costs and doesn't specify the types of identification that would be necessary.

Marc Elias, a Washington, D.C., attorney, told Carson City District Judge James Russell that the description of the proposed constitutional amendment on the initiative "is extremely misleading" and falls short of legal mandates.

The measure supported by Angle's political action committee, Our Vote Nevada, would require voters to have photo identification to cast a ballot. It also would require the Legislature to direct government agencies to issue free cards to anyone who does not have valid, government-issued photo identification.

After losing Nevada's 2010 U.S. Senate race to Harry Reid, Angle said she was working on a documentary film to expose nationwide voter fraud. State election officials have said there is no evidence to support the allegations.

Two lawsuits claim the initiative's "description of effect" — a required synopsis limited to 200 words that explains what a proposal would do — is defective.

One filed by Elias and Matthew Griffin — both lawyers with ties to the Democratic Party — argued the initiative improperly seeks to "commandeer" the Legislature to enact voter ID legislation.

It further claims that requiring agencies to issue free ID cards to people who don't have one is an illegal unfunded mandate. The Nevada Constitution requires initiatives that involve expenditures to identify a funding source or a tax to pay for it.

Similar arguments are raised in the other lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, which claims the reference to "free" identification cards could be misunderstood to suggest they come with no cost to the state.

Russell was to hear the ACLU's challenges at a separate hearing later in the day. The judge indicated he may rule from the bench.

Angle's attorney Joe Hansen said the initiative wouldn't prevent anyone from voting or registering.

"When you register to vote, you don't need a photo ID," Hansen told the judge. He added that anyone who opposed showing a photo at the polls could still vote by absentee ballot.

The ACLU further argues the initiative doesn't disclose that obtaining a voter ID card would be more burdensome to voters most likely to need one, including the poor, minorities, the homeless and those with a religious objection to being photographed.

Initiative supporters need to gather more than 101,000 signatures by June 17 to qualify for the November general election ballot. It would have to be approved by voters again in 2016 to become law.

Angle said she has lined up 7,000 volunteers statewide to collect 20 signatures each to meet the deadline.

The push in Nevada comes as judges in other states, most recently Arkansas and Wisconsin, have struck down voter photo-identification requirements, though appeals are likely.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 34 states have passed laws requiring voters to show some form of identification at the polls.

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