Las Vegas Sun

August 20, 2019

Currently: 91° — Complete forecast

Sun editorial:

Strides made during legislative session would do founders proud

Here in Nevada, we have extra reason to celebrate this Independence Day.

Since last Fourth of July, Nevada voters and lawmakers have taken numerous steps to preserve and nurture the participatory democracy that our nation’s founders fought and died for.

Among the highlights:

• This past November, Nevadans overwhelmingly approved the “motor voter” ballot question, creating automatic voter registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Under the measure, which drew support from just shy of 60% of voters, registration occurs when someone signs up for a driver’s license or state identification card. The measure will make it more convenient for voters to register and promises to boost participation in elections.

• During the 2019 legislative session, lawmakers approved a bill allowing voters to register and cast their ballots on the same day. Gov. Steve Sisolak signed the bill, which went into effect Monday and extends the time that voters can register.

• Another key bill this legislative session will help deter unjustified recall campaigns against elected officials. The new law stiffens criminal penalties and civil liabilities for falsifying signatures on recall petitions or misrepresenting those petitions, and requires petitioners to pay for signatures to be counted. This should help tamp down the kind of baseless and toxic recall drives the state has seen in recent years, when several state and local lawmakers were targeted for purely political reasons. Although the state still doesn’t require any formal grounds for recall — self-dealing or other impropriety, for instance — the new law will hold those filing petitions more accountable.

• Lawmakers also added teeth to campaign finance regulations, including provisions specifying that candidates can’t use unspent funds for personal purchases and can’t pay themselves a salary from their own campaign accounts. The law will help remove unscrupulous leaders and establish more clear boundaries for those who want to play by the rules.

• As of Monday, the right to vote was restored for Nevada felons who’d served their sentences. That will add as many as 77,000 voters to the rolls, which will hopefully increase participation.

• Also thanks to lawmakers, the days of cities holding off-year elections are over in Nevada. Elections will now be held only in even-numbered years — presidential elections and midterms. This will increase turnout and spare state residents from at least a little bit of voter fatigue.

These are all steps worth noting on this most American of days. While other states have ramped up voter suppression in recent years, Nevada has lowered barriers that previously had deterred state residents from voting.

Our founders would be proud of us.

So as John Adams once wrote, let’s celebrate today as a “great anniversary Festival” filled with “Pomp and Parade, with Shows, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”