A Perception of Suppression: Voter ID Laws and Nevada Elections

The Nevada Secretary of State, Democrat Ross Miller has a solution in search of a problem? He is concerned about the “perception” of fraudulent activity in future Nevada elections:

“Miller’s proposal, which he will introduce during the next legislative session, includes linking Nevada’s voter lists with photos from the Department of Motor Vehicles so the voter’s picture would be displayed for poll workers before a ballot is cast. Voters who don’t have a driver’s license would have their picture taken and entered into the system the first time they vote in person.” [LVSun]

We should quickly note that the problem Miller seeks to prevent isn’t in person voter fraud — it’s the perception that some person could engage in voter impersonation fraud.   Those are two very different issues.

Nevada has had ZERO prosecutable cases of actual voter impersonation fraud in recent elections.  Therefore, the Secretary of State’s proposal is unnecessary as a solution to a real problem.

The proposal may be a well intentioned attempt to address the continual clamor of right wing ideologues who perceive all ethnic minority voters ( or Democrats) as potential frauds.  That may be an insoluble problem.

The intractability isn’t a result of actual, documented, prosecutable, voting fraud, but may well be a function of right wing delusions about the outcome of elections.  That is, so firm are they in the righteousness of their cause, the radical right cannot conceive of any outcome other than the one they desire.  Should their world view and attendant policies be rejected at the polls, they find comfort in the notion that the result must be the product of (1) voters misinformed by the “lame stream media,” (2) voters who have nefarious, possibly un-American views, and (3) election irregularities.

The delusions are enhanced by the right wing echo chamber media with well known, often documented, alleged cases of anecdotal reports of election irregularities reported as news; to be followed quickly by right wing legislators and officials citing those news accounts as “proof” election fraud exists.   No amount of electoral vigilance will suffice to comfort those who cannot accept election outcomes that don’t reinforce their righteous cause.  In short, some people will never be satisfied, by anything.

The second problem with Miller’s proposal is that given the non-existence of actual cases of voter impersonation, there’s something troubling about his admission that he doesn’t know what a voting identification system merging the voter rolls with DMV data will cost.   Radical right wing Assemblyman Ira Hansen (R-Sparks) who ordinarily opposes any expenditure of funds from the state coffers which serve real Nevadans in need, finds it laudable to spend funds for which no real-world problem exists.

As reported previously,* the third problem rests with the capacity of the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles to act as the agency of resort for photo identification.

“Department of Motor Vehicles: Full service offices are located in Carson City, Elko, Ely, Fallon, Hawthorne, Henderson, (2) Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Laughlin, Mesquite, Pahrump, Reno, Tonopah, Winnemucca, and Yerington.  That’s 16 full service offices to serve a state of 109,806 square miles.”

Aside from the obvious problems for low income urban area residents to get to DMV offices, there’s the specter of the impact this proposal could have on elderly or low income voters in the rural counties for whom simply getting to a DMV office during regular hours could be problematic.

The official estimate of Nevada’s population is 2,723,322. [Census]  Of these, approximately 75% are over 18 years of age.  If 24.4% are under 18 years of age, that leaves 75.6% of the population as potential voters, and if we arbitrarily assume that all 19.3% of Nevada residents are not citizens (and are over the age of 18), we still have at least 56.3% (1,532,301) individuals who might need voter identification cards of some sort.   One compilation source estimates that Nevada has issued 1,487,899 driving licenses. [SM]  Thus the DMV might be called upon to issue at least some 45,331 forms of identification for voting purposes.

The third problem with the proposal concerns the level of connectivity between voting registrars and DMV facilities.  Nevada residents may register to vote if they have been residents of the state for 30 days.  For voters in the 2012 election the registration deadline was October 16, and the election was conducted on November 6, 2012.   It’s appropriate to ask: Can the DMV and the various county election agencies coordinate their rosters and rolls in the time between the registration deadline and the election day?  Can they do this without incurring additional expenses for personnel? Or, without paying significant overtime to current staff?

Again, it seems necessary to ask if all this expense, and all the attendant staffing questions, are required in order to address the concerns of intractable ideologues, and to provide a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist?

*Previous posts about vote suppression and ID laws here, and May 27, 2007, and September 20, 2006, and August 1, 2011, and August 18, 2012,  and May 14, 2007, and February 18, 2011.

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2 responses to “A Perception of Suppression: Voter ID Laws and Nevada Elections

  1. Ya know, as much I hated having to “register” to buy a decongestant, I semi-understand the rational behind it: the meth lab problem.

    As you said, there has been no verifiable in-person voter fraud.

    Stupid, stupid, stupid. What a waste of our already-paltry state funds.

    Blue Lyon

  2. And to make matters worse, imagine the extra work for the poll workers, many of whom are volunteers and have enough to do to just keep the line moving! Ridiculous!