Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller announced last week a proposal regarding improving the integrity of our elections by implementing a photo requirement in our voter registration databases. I have been involved in voter registration and voter mobilization efforts in Nevada for the past 16 years, and am well aware of the problems that Nevada voters face due to voter suppression tactics. Typically when proposals requiring additional forms of identification are proposed, they are intended to increase the difficulty of voters being able to cast ballots under the guise of protecting the integrity of our elections. As a voter protection activist, I am firmly opposed to efforts that will make it harder for voters to casts ballots as well as efforts that are intended to intimidate specific populations of the electorate. Most efforts to require voter identification are submitted with the supposed intent to prevent fraud in elections. Let me be clear, there are no voter fraud incidents in our elections in Nevada, and therefore no need to prevent it.
However, the proposal being offered by Secretary Miller is an innovative and intelligent way to solve the concerns that people have about preventing fraud in our elections, as well as increasing protection for voters. Proponents of voter id laws generally claim that voters need a form of identification with a photo to provide the greatest assurance that the voter is who they claim to be. This proposal solves that issue without requiring and burdening voters to spend money on identification or taking additional time out of their schedules to obtain an identification card.
On the voter protection side of this issue, it is a common problem in minority communities for voters to get challenged at polling places by poll watchers intent on disrupting the process. Generally, they target people who are not carrying identification cards to force that voter to cast a provisional ballot or to intimidate the voter from casting a ballot at all. Oftentimes voters will just leave without casting a ballot after being targeted by unscrupulous poll watchers. Those voters that choose to stay and cast a provisional ballot are limited to only voting in federal races, and are denied from making choices in important state and local races. This process proposed by Secretary Miller will eliminate that situation from occurring, and ensuring that voters will not be denied the opportunity from casting a ballot due to not carrying an identification card. Secretary Miller may not need to prevent fraud in our elections, but there is definitely a need to increase the protection of voters’ rights at the poll. This proposal will actually benefit minority voters as opposed to disenfranchising them. Secretary Miller should be commended for tackling this issue in a smart and effective method.
A major concern will be the cost of implementing this proposal in the State of Nevada during a time of economic hardship and a limited budget. There is no incentive in investing money to prevent voter fraud when it is not an issue that occurs in Nevada, but as Nevada maintains the status of a battleground state voter protection will become increasingly important. Perhaps not as important as funding our education systems and healthcare obligations, but that will be a decision for the Legislature to determine.