Here We Go Again? Adelson’s New Voting Gambit

AdelsonJon Ralston reports Nevada’s very own Sheldon Adelson is funding Engage Nevada, a 501 (c) 4 organization which purports to promote political education and voter registration.

We can guess the content of the “educational” efforts — a pure stream of right wing, pro-corporate, messages pertaining to “issues” such as immigration policy reform, tort law restrictions, low taxes for the wealthy, and anti-government slogans.  How the voting registration might be accomplished to further GOP ends is more complicated.

The Rules

Nevada Revised Statutes are abundantly clear on what constitutes illegal activities on the part of voter registration agencies:

NRS 293.5045 Voter registration agencies: Prohibited acts; penalties. 1. A person who works in a voter registration agency shall not (a) Seek to influence an applicant’s political preference or party registration;  (b) Display a political preference or party allegiance in a place where it can be seen by an applicant; (c) Make any statement or take any action to discourage an applicant from registering to vote; or (d) Make any statement or take any action which would lead the applicant to believe that a decision to register to vote has any effect on the availability of any services or benefits provided by the State or Federal Government.

The Guide for Voter Registration drives prepared by the Nevada Secretary of State’s office (pdf) specifies 14 things which a voter registration drive organization may NOT do.

Not to offer any more advice to those who want to circumvent the intent of the State of Nevada to have as many citizens participate in elections as possible, but…

Gimmicks and Games

There’s one old but goodie, tried and true method of collecting new voters for a particular party — follow the demographics.   If your party is favored by elderly white men, then obviously you’d want to go into precincts which contain volumes of elderly affluent white males.  Both parties provide registration assistance to individuals in their respective demographic profiles.  Following the demographics is obvious.

A second method is the Private Party, it’s a variation on the old Book Club “member get a member” recommendation ploy.  Registration drives on private property usually mean at shopping malls, or other gathering spots.  However, there’s nothing to prevent a person from inviting guests to a “party” and encouraging them to “bring a new voter” along with them.   Thus, a party could stage an event, invite guests, and make “voting registration” available on the premises.

No one misses targets of opportunity, on the Republican side these could be church parking lots, country clubs, senior citizen centers in more affluent areas, etc.  There’s no law that says you have to go where your voters aren’t.

Assuming the Republicans don’t revert to the activities of Nathan Sproul and his associates, there’s nothing illegal about conducting voter registration drives.  We probably do want to remember that then Secretary of State, Dean Heller, couldn’t kick that Voter Outreach of America  ball away from himself fast enough in 2004, and Sproul has been active since.

In short if “it” looks like Sproul’s Lincoln Strategy group, or like Voter Outreach of America, or Strategic Allied Consulting, or any other incarnation of Sproul’s group … or anything similar, then Nevada voters are well advised to stay clear.  This didn’t prevent the Romney Campaign from utilizing the services of the infamous group in 2012.  Should “Engage Nevada” hire Sproul associates warning flags should be flapping in even the most gentle breeze.

Running the Projector

One of the tactics used to bring down ACORN in 2010 was the charge that it was somehow involved in “voter fraud.”  In Nevada this meant that the organization had improperly paid its employees, NOT that the agency was involved in actual fraud — the questionable applications were flagged by ACORN itself.  This didn’t stop the Sound Machine from the Right Wing.  Bless their hearts they’re still voting to defund an organization which hasn’t existed since 2010.

If, however, one is employing such hard-ballers like Lincoln Strategies cum Strategic Allies Consulting cum Voter Outreach for America… then a person might well assume that if we’re doing it they must be also.  Psychologists would label this Projection.

Projectors can get out of focus as well.  For example, the difference between the improper payments made by ACORN are not to be conflated with the activities of organizations such as Voter Outreach for America and incidents of destroying applications or failing to submit applications for those who sign up as Democrats or independents.  Those are two very different horses, and not aligned at the starting gate in the same race.  ACORN turned in all the applications, flagging those which were questionable.  Sproul’s minions have a way of making applications disappear.

Caveat Emptor

Since voter registration drives are supposed to return applications in ten days — if a person signs up at a drive then that individual should be able to call the county registrar or clerk and confirm that the application has been filed.  A well intentioned voter registration drive should provide the prospective voter with the phone numbers or contact information for the voting officials in the counties.  If a voting registration volunteer doesn’t provide contact information for a follow up, in this day and age of Segretti Style Dirty Tricks, a light should blink brightly somewhere in the back of the brain.

There’s one sure fire way to counter voter registration efforts by the opposition — conduct your own.  No matter how much money is poured into voter registration drives there is still nothing better than scores of well trained, well intentioned, and well informed volunteers.  It costs pennies and reaps incalculable rewards.

More:  The Ralston Reports, The Nevada Progressive,

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