Tuesday, June 13, 2017 | 2 a.m.
Voter suppression can be defined as any attempt to curtail voter participation. Obvious methods include voter ID, proof of citizenship, and reducing poll locations and hours. Skillfully concealed methods include requiring membership in a specific political party to vote in publicly funded elections, not restoring the right of all voters to have a voice in who represents them, revoking the right to vote for a city official and not instituting a voting method that would increase participation.
Voter suppression as public policy is unfathomable. Yet that’s exactly what Democratic leadership in the Legislature has done.
Currently more than 400,000 registered voters (27 percent of active registered voters) are not registered as Democratic or Republican. As such, they are not allowed to vote in primary elections paid for by their tax dollars. A bill opening primary elections to all voters, correcting this unfairness, was not given a hearing. Asked why, Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford replied, “We don’t feel it’s worthy of a hearing. Next question.” 400,000 voters denied the right to vote in a publicly funded election because they chose to register as nonpartisan, Independent American, Libertarian or Green party members represents voter suppression.
Prior to this last election, if only one political party fielded two or more candidates for a particular office, the top two candidates would face off in the general election so even members of the opposing party could choose their preferred candidate. Under a change made in 2015 which affected 21 races in 2016, the winner of the closed primary advanced unopposed. All voters not registered to that party had no voice. This bill would have restored the old method. Voters having their choice taken away is voter suppression.
The city of Henderson requested a change to its city charter to allow mail ballots for all elections, increasing voter participation. The bill received a hearing, but the Democratic chair didn’t bring it to a vote. Not expanding the way people can vote increasing participation is voter suppression.
Last session, the Democratic minority blocked presidential primaries. This session, in the majority, they didn’t allow a vote, placing Nevada’s role in national party politics above voter participation.
“Nevadans agree that we need to have a voting system that protects the fundamental right of every eligible voter — Democrat, Republican, nonpartisan or otherwise. Voting is a right, not a privilege.” (Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson upon Gov. Brian Sandoval’s veto of Initative Petition 1 Automatic Voter Registration)
“We also need to protect our heritage. That means ... making it easier for our citizens to participate in the democratic process.” (The Democratic Caucus’ Nevada Blueprint)
These two statements seem contradictory to the action taken. Intentional or not, voter participation is curtailed. A different direction is possible. We control the future.
Doug Goodman lives in Sparks and is the founder of Nevadans for Election Reform.