Vote Suppression Bills Emerge in Nevada Legislature

Vote suppression 2 Here they go again: SB 433AN ACT relating to elections; requiring the county clerk and city clerk to publish the voter turnout for each day of early voting by midnight of the following day; prohibiting an election board officer from displaying a political preference or party allegiance while serving; requiring the county clerk and city clerk to use certain criteria in determining polling places for early voting; revising the hours and days for early voting;…  And they’re off, galloping toward making it more difficult to cast a ballot in Nevada elections —

Sections 4, 5, 12 and 13 of this bill provide that no permanent or temporary polling place may open before 7 a.m., remain open after 7 p.m. or open on Sundays during early voting.”

This in a state in which one of the leading employers is the “hospitality” sector, and people in that sector work various shifts which are generally not associated with so-called ‘standard hours.’   Here’s a conservative idea: How about allowing local governments some discretion in how they conduct their elections?

Consider for a moment the section in the bill which alleges to be “fair” about the location of polling stations.  Heretofore, county clerks and local election officials have had some latitude to establish these on the basis of local returns and traffic.  However, SB 433 adds some language which contains another wrinkle.  The Bill says,

“2. The county clerk shall: (a) Provide by rule or regulation for the criteria to be used to select permanent and temporary polling places for early voting by personal appearance . [; and] The criteria used to select permanent and temporary polling places for early voting by personal appearance must, without limitation: (1) Ensure that permanent and temporary polling places are located near residential areas of the county, to the extent possible. (2) Ensure that a permanent or temporary polling place is located in every geographic area of the county, to the extent possible. (b) At a meeting of the board of county commissioners, inform the board of the sites selected as permanent and temporary polling places for early voting by personal appearance. 3. The number of permanent and temporary polling places for early voting by personal appearance in a county with multiple assembly districts must be divided equally among the assembly districts.” (emphasis added)

First, there’s the waffling language inserted “to the extent possible,” without specifying what criteria should be used to determine whether a location is feasible.  Secondly, take a another look at the portion underlined above.  What counties have multiple assembly districts?  Clark (Las Vegas), Washoe (Reno-Sparks), and in general members of the Nevada Assembly represent about 64,299 residents.

The 42 Assembly districts include 30 districts wholly within Clark County, 8 districts in the Washoe County/Carson City/western Nevada area, and 4 Assembly districts within the 2 rural Senate districts.”  [nvleg]

Now, if each of the Assembly elections in multi-district counties have the same number of polling stations what would the impact of this be on those districts which have more than the average number of residents and those which have less?  This is a problem which could easily be sorted by local officials who know how many people live where – but the Republican bill would treat everyone “equally” when such a solution might not in itself be equitable. 

There are three “overpopulated” districts in Nevada after the 2010 census:  Clark Senate District 9, 173.9% overpopulated;  State Assembly District 22 at 246.7% overpopulated; and,  Nevada Assembly District 13 with 298.8% overpopulation. [ballot]  Perhaps we might want to think about installing more polling stations in those districts which are overpopulated rather than being “fair” by allowing all districts an equal number no matter the overpopulation figures? Interestingly enough those two overpopulated Assembly seats are currently held by Republicans, as is Senate District 9.  It’s hard to conceive of Republicans advocating long lines in polling places for their own incumbents – but perhaps when ideology trumps common sense that could be the outcome?

This could also prove to be the case in the infamous SB 169, photo ID bill.  What makes SB 169 of special interest is that it only recognizes state, federal, and tribal identification forms of identification.  The result is essentially disenfranchisement.  And, disenfranchisement with a big price tag for taxpayers:

“The bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee because of its undermined cost of providing voter identification cards to those who lack other acceptable forms for photo ID.

There’s also the expense of educating voters on the requirement, Story said, adding Indiana, on which the Nevada bill is modeled, spent millions of dollars on such efforts.’ [LVRJ]

Additional, costly, voter identification measures to solve a non-existent problem, combined with the shrinking number of hours available for voters is a recipe for vote suppression, exactly what Republicans have been clamoring for in recent years.  Bill Moyers compiled a short but illustrative guide to GOP vote suppression thoughts, which deserves a review at this point before the Republicans in Nevada make voting the preserve of the rich and all but impossible for the poor.

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