In order to vote in the state of Nevada you must be at least 18 years of age, be a citizen of the United States, be a resident of the state for at least 30 days, not be declared by a court mentally incompetent, and not convicted of a felony or have had your civil rights restored. If you meet these requirements you have the RIGHT to vote. All you have to do is register.
When you register to vote in Nevada you swear to meeting all these requirements, and if you violate any of the provisions of NRS 293.700-840 there are some hefty penalties. Those penalties may be at least part of the reason that the Republican Trial Lawyers Association can’t find any prosecutable cases of voter fraud in Nevada. [RTLA] This is all the more reason to take the GOP’s bullhorn blather about rampant voter fraud with 64.8 milligrams of NaCl.
One way the RTLA and other GOP sources create the illusion of massive voter fraud is by conflating registration problems with actual voting fraud. ACORN in Nevada admitted to violating a statute about paying people to register voters — the organization was never guilty of sending fraudulent voters to the polls. In fact, the organization red-flagged questionable forms itself and sent them along to the registrar (because that’s what they were required to do) with notations that the forms weren’t plausible. [Fox]
We’ve covered this territory before, but it never hurts to get a reminder
How rarely voter fraud is attempted is demonstrated as follows: “A report by the public-integrity section of the Justice Department found that from October 2002 to September 2005, the department charged 95 people with “election fraud”; 55 were convicted. Among those, fewer than 20 people were convicted of casting fraudulent ballots.” [MJ] Note please, that out of all the elections from October 2002 to September 2005, out of all the ballots cast in those elections — only 20 persons were convicted of casting fraudulent ballots — and this report came from the Bush Administration Department of Justice.
The Source of All This Bullhorn Blather?
(1) Sour grapes. Fringe candidates, convinced of their self-importance and deluded about the illusory reservoir of support they’ve imagined, are usually the first to challenge the validity of elections. [DB] Operating on the basis of the comfortable illusion that they represent the True Will Of The People, these fringe candidates are loathe to acknowledge that anything other than a massive amount of fraudulent ballots is the reason for their rejection at the polls. Their delusions need not become our realities.
(2) Demographic trends. If your party has increasing problems reaching ethnic minority voters, women, the elderly, and the young — then a tried and true strategy is to convince legislators these demographic subsets are somehow responsible for “non-citizen” voting, etc. and seek the enactment of voting restrictions which artificially impede access to the voting booths.
Bearing the Burden of Proof
This second source is highly questionable because it violates a crucial principle of American jurisprudence — you are innocent until proven guilty.
If you signed your registration form in Nevada declaring under penalty of perjury that you are at least 18 years of age, are a citizen of the United States, are not among the classes of persons held ineligible, and are a resident of the state. The burden of proof that you have committed perjury rests with the state.
The burden of proof always rests with the state — in any prosecution for anything. If a person is alleged to have voted once in Clark County and again in Nye County that would call for a prosecution of a crime under NRS 293 — but the burden of proof rests with the state. If a person is alleged to have voted using an assumed identity, then this calls for prosecution, and once again — the burden of proof rests with the state.
Any suggestion that the citizen be required to “show proof of citizenship” at the polls is not only redundant, but shifts the burden of proof from the state to the individual. That’s not the way the American system of jurisprudence works. It’s not the way the American judicial system has ever worked.
A person in any court in the United States is never presumed guilty until he or she can demonstrate innocence. A person need never prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he or she did not commit a burglary, an arson, a theft, a manslaughter — the burden of proof always rests with the state. Demanding “proof of citizenship” at the polling stations presumes that unless a person can “prove” otherwise he or she is a fraudulent voter upends the very foundation of our criminal justice precepts.
We’re very clear about rights in this country — they cannot be taken away unless the state can demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that a person has committed an illegal act and therefore must bear the penalty. We should be equally clear that voting is NOT a privilege — it is a RIGHT guaranteed to us by our own Constitution and cannot be taken away or impeded except by a state shouldering the burden of proof that a criminal act has been committed.
We don’t strip individuals of their freedom and their rights because they might commit a felony like an auto theft or check kiting. We don’t strip individuals of their freedom and their rights because they are members of a demographic group which might have a higher than the national average proclivity for dealing contraband drugs. We, therefore, ought not to listen to the hysterical sirens of pseudo-‘patriots’ who blare that “some ethnic, urban, or Other” demographic groups are “thinking about committing voting fraud.” That’s just not the American Way.
Bonus: Watch a right wing advocate of vote suppression get tied up in knots when asked to provide specific examples of voting fraud to make his argument.