Las Vegas Sun

May 22, 2024

Republican lawmaker proposes ID requirement for voting in Nevada

2023 State of the Schools Address

Steve Marcus

Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo smiles during the 2023 State of the Schools address at Resorts World Las Vegas, Friday, Jan. 27, 2023.

A Republican lawmaker this week introduced legislation that would require Nevada voters to provide photo identification before receiving their ballot for future elections, which Gov. Joe Lombardo signaled last month he’d approve if it reaches his desk.

Assemblyman Gregory Hafen II of Pahrump introduced Assembly Bill 88, which would update the state’s current statute to require a valid identification card or driver’s license issued by the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles or a federally recognized Native American tribe before providing a ballot, according to a draft of the bill. The aim is to eliminate any semblance of voter fraud, Hafen told the Sun, despite claims by local and statewide officials that there has been no evidence of widespread fraud spanning the last two November elections.

The bill would also let constituents file a need-based waiver that would allow them to receive a DMV-issued ID for no charge, a provision Hafen said thinks could at least open the door for bipartisan debate. Additionally, the bill would enhance criminal penalties for voter fraud charges similar to credit card or retail fraud, provisions some Democrats have said they’re receptive to, Hafen said.

“We all agree that a misdemeanor for voter fraud — none of us feel really good about that,” said Hafen. “So, they (the proposed penalties) are on par with credit card or check fraud. I felt that was something that could get bipartisan support, and I’ve talked to some Democrats who are actually not opposed to that portion of the bill and want to have further conversations about it.”

Though Lombardo in his State of the State address voiced support for some GOP-backed election reforms like ID requirements, the bill will likely face steep opposition in the Assembly, where Democrats hold a 27-14 supermajority. Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas) told reporters after the governor’s address that any legislation that could disenfranchise voters was a “nonstarter.”

“We require people to have a valid form of identification to get on a plane, operate motor vehicles or to purchase alcohol and cigarettes, but not to cast a vote in an election,” Lombardo, who has previously voted by mail, said. “This is illogical.”

Despite opposition from Democratic leaders, Hafen said he’s open to making changes to the bill. He also said he plans to meet in the coming weeks with Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar — a Democrat — to discuss a path forward for the bill.

Aguilar told the Sun in a statement Jan. 23 he would oppose a law requiring voters to provide identification, maintaining the state’s current system of signature verification is more than sufficient at detecting potential fraud.

Voting rights advocates worry forcing voters to provide an ID is a redundancy because one is already required to register to vote, and that the state’s system of signature verification is more than sufficient at confirming a constituent’s identity. The option to get an ID for free, Hafen hopes, will provide a compromise both sides of the aisle can agree on.

“We want to make sure we’re not disenfranchising anyone. We want to make sure that everyone has access to the polls, and everybody can vote,” Hafen said. “Our elections officials already know how to handle this. And so, I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. I want to take something that’s already in the books and has already been addressed.

“Clearly, Democrats supported that legislation previously. So, I want to try to find something that hopefully will be bipartisan that we can put into statute to help prevent future voter fraud.”