Las Vegas Sun

October 19, 2019

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State has taken strides in protecting Nevadans’ voice at the ballot box

Nevada voters and their representatives in the state Legislature have made terrific progress in recent years on making voting more convenient and far less restrictive for Silver State residents.

It’s a credit to our state that voters overwhelmingly approved the “Motor Voter” ballot initiative in 2018 to allow registration at DMV sites, and that the bills that cleared the Legislature this year included one to establish same-day registration and move all elections to even-numbered years. That latter bill will undoubtedly boost turnout for municipal elections like the one held this week, which drew participation from just 10% of eligible voters in Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria and his team made a quantum leap in encouraging turnout by establishing voting centers that allow county residents to cast their ballots at any of more than 170 sites across the Las Vegas Valley. The new approach did away with the precinct model, which required residents to vote at polls in their neighborhoods.

All of these are steps in the right direction. Removing restrictions and improving convenience encourages more participation, which is critical for our democracy.

It’s a trajectory the state should stay on. A look at what’s going on in other states shows why.

ν In Tennessee, a newly enacted law imposes civil and criminal penalties that include months-long jail terms and fines that can exceed $10,000 for registration organizers who may make such inadvertent mistakes as submitting incomplete forms or missing deadlines to file information. With the legislation, Tennessee became the first state to impose such penalties.

ν Texas has established astonishingly restrictive rules and regulations for registration volunteers. Among them: Volunteers must obtain state certification and then can only accept registration in their home county, must undergo recertification training every other year and must be U.S. citizens — which excludes longtime legal immigrants. If that’s not enough, Texas requires registrars to hand deliver copies of any registration forms they receive to county officials.

ν Georgia tried but failed to impose a “no match, no vote” rule that would have kept voters off the rolls over mere typographical errors. That provision was blocked in court.

The policies in those states have several key things in common.

One, they were approved by Republican-dominated state governments. Two, they occurred in states where there’s been a huge surge of registrations among young and minority voters.

Three, the GOP lawmakers who supported them justified their actions on false claims of rampant voter fraud.

These voter suppression efforts are just one way that Republican extremists have been trying to hijack democracy in recent years. Gerrymandering has also been part of their playbook, along with passing last-minute legislation to diminish the powers of incoming Democratic Party governors in some states.

It’s all shameful, and it can’t be allowed to start happening in Nevada.

To their credit, Nevada voters have risen up in recent elections to protect our state from this kind of extremism by electing responsible, reasonable candidates to key leadership positions. That includes politicians from both parties, such as current Gov. Steve Sisolak and former Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, who both established track records of putting strong public policy over party objectives.

With leaders like that in place, Nevada has been buffered from toxic right-wing doctrine, not only on voting issues but gun safety, health care, gender rights, reproductive health and a range of other matters.

We can all be proud of how we’ve improved access to the polls for all eligible Nevada voters in recent years. As shown elsewhere, we’re on the right path.