Tag Archives: Nevada voting laws

Nevada: Vote Like Your Right To Vote Depends On It

Ballot BoxThere’s one Nevada political race which hasn’t attracted as much limelight as might be justified.  That would be the race for Secretary of State.  The Secretary of State’s office has authority over elections and voting, and the implementation of Nevada election laws and regulations.  The Nevada Republican Party has already put citizens on notice that it intends to flog the Election Integrity Mule all the way to the polls.

Here’s their 2014 election platform statement:

“We advocate proof of U.S. citizenship and residency at the time of voter registration and requiring government issued photo ID at the time of voting.  We oppose same day voter registration to preserve election integrity.  We strongly support all electronic voting systems having a voter verified paper audit trail, used in the event of a recount.”

Look closely at the first sentence.  Yes, everyone supports the idea that a person is a U.S. citizen, and is a resident for the purposes of voting.  And, yes if a person does the registration paperwork to vote in Nevada a government issued ID or driver’s license is required. [NVSoS] If a person doesn’t have a government issued ID or driver’s license then the individual must register in person at the county election office, clerk or registrar. [NVSoS]

Once the paperwork is filed and the voter is included among those eligible to vote in Nevada, when a person goes to the polls the burden of proof to refuse that individual a ballot is on the government — not the individual.  It is up to the government to demonstrate you are not eligible to vote — it is not up to you to prove that you are.

So, here the second part of that sentence comes into play.  Under the Nevada Republican scheme of things, not only does a person have to prove citizenship and residency during the registration process, BUT the person must also prove he or she is eligible to vote at the polling place.  In other, unminced words, the burden of proof is now shifted from “you are eligible to vote unless the government can prove you aren’t” to “you are not eligible to vote until you prove you are.”

Since voting irregularities are illegal, what the Nevada Republican Party is advocating is a system in which you are NOT presumed  innocent until you are proven guilty, you are presumed guilty until you can prove you aren’t.  [Extended discussion here]

The second sentence doesn’t make much sense. If you have proof of citizenship and residency a few days before an election, wouldn’t you have it on election day?  Should there be issues regarding either element there’s always recourse to the provisional ballot.  The only thing that same day registration actually does is make voting easier and more convenient.

And all this in the interest of providing ‘election integrity.’  Nor is this a recent idea.  ALEC and its allies have been shoving the concept of increased corporate influence and decreased citizen participation for some time — and they do have Nevada allies. [DB]

There was an effort during the 2011 legislative season to enact a voter photo ID law. [DB] Legislators Roberson, Hardy, Hansen, Woodbury, Stewart, and Hambrick were the Suppression Six.  Among the bills they sponsored or supported were AB 327, AB 341, AB 425, AB 434, and SB 374.

State Senator Barbara Cegavske added her own bill to the mix, AB 311 jointly sponsored by Hardy, Sherwood, Hansen, Munford, Gustavson, and Halseth.  The bill would have eliminated all early voting in Nevada elections.

Another bit of red, white, and blue fearmongering was addressed in 2011 by SB 178, sponsored by Gustavson, Hardy, McGinness, Roberson, Settelmeyer, Hansen, Ellison, Goedhart, Goicoechea, Hambrick, Kirner, and McArthur.  The bill was a rather blatant bit of immigrant bashing, with whispers of “illegals” voting in the toxic mixture.

During the 2013 session of the state legislature there were another spate of bills regarding photo ID statutes and other means of making voting less convenient and more restrictive.  There was SB 63 (photo ID), SB 367 (repetition of immigrant bashing  SB 178/2011) , AB 216 (Photo ID) sponsored by Sen. Gustavson, Hansen, Wheeler, Ellison, Hambrick, Fiore, P. Anderson, Grady, Livermore, and Stewart.  AB 319 (Photo ID) sponsored by Stewart, Hambrick, Hansen, Duncan, Grady, Hardy, Hickey, Kirner, and Livermore.

And what of making voting more convenient?  During the 2013 legislative session, AB 440 was passed which would have extended the period for voter registration. The bill passed the Assembly on a 25-16 vote. [NVLeg] It passed the Nevada Senate on a 11-10 vote.  The Nay votes came from Brower, Cegavske, Pete Goicoechea, Gustavson, Hammond, Hardy, Hutchison, Ben Kieckhefer, Roberson, and Settelmeyer. [NVLeg]  The bill was vetoed by Governor Sandoval.

There appear to be two outcomes the Nevada Republican Party would very much like to see in the upcoming 2014 elections.  The first would be to control the State Senate, and the second might very well be to elect State Senator Barbara Cegavske as the new Secretary of State.

Democrats in Nevada would be well advised to vote in 2014 as if their right to vote depended on it — given the platform, the previous legislative efforts, and the voting records of Nevada Republicans in the Legislature, Senator Barbara Cegavske in particular — it might.

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Cegavske: A Solution in Search of a Problem – Vote Suppression Nevada Style

State Senator Barbara Cegavske (R-Clark8) would like to be our next Secretary of State, in part because:

“One of my main goals is to ensure the integrity of elections in Nevada. It is one of the fundamental tenets of our state and federal constitution in which we all believe. I strongly support and encourage the active participation of all the citizens of Nevada to exercise their right to vote. Nevada voters deserve assurance that the manner in which their elections are conducted and in which the votes are counted, is above reproach. I will endeavor to provide that assurance.” (emphasis added)

Notice the Buzz Words.  “Integrity of elections,” and “Voters deserve assurance.”  Both of the phrases are connected to the Republican vote suppression rhetoric.  In fact, there is an Election Integrity project, operating out of Santa Clarita, CA.  Some background may be in order at this point.

Follow The Money

Catherine Englebrecht is the founder of the King Street Patriots and and True the Vote — a product of the maelstrom of right wing politics which is the state of Texas.  Convinced that Hispanic and African American voters, abetted by the ‘nefarious’ ACORN were fraudulently participating in elections, the self-styled Patriots and Truthers, launched various and sundry schemes to minimize the votes from African American, Hispanic, and young people.  Elections, the self-styled Patriots said, should be free from any contamination and from charges of fraud and sloppy practices — translation — too many “other kinds of people” voting.

Adding one more link to the chain, the attorney representing True the Vote, is none other than Kelly Shackelford, of the free market think tank Liberty Institute. A few more clicks and we find Shackelford listed as the president of the Free Market Foundation, which in turn links to the Atlas Economic Research Foundation.  And, wonder of wonders … check deeply enough and there’s a Koch Brothers connection: “The Charles G. Koch Foundation and the Claude R. Lambe Foundation both support the Atlas Economic Research Foundation.[3]$113,800 received from Koch foundations 2005–2008 Total Koch foundation grants 1997–2008: $122,300 [4] [SW]

There’s another link to right wing organizations which have proposed vote suppression measures:  The State Policy Network is funded by all the usual suspects, major corporate interests like Reynolds American, Altria (tobacco), Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon, GlaxoSmithKline, Kraft Foods, Comcast, Time Warner, and … the Koch Brothers. [SPN funding]  The link is formed when we find out that True The Vote received funding from the State Policy Network during the 2012 election season. [ConsTrans]  We’d be remiss if it weren’t noted that the State Policy Network also bestowed its largess on the Nevada Policy Research Institute. {above, p.2}

From whence comes the funding for the State Policy Network?  A significant portions comes from the Pope Foundation and other conservative funding fonts, along with a very healthy infusion of money from the Donors Capital Trust.  Read: Koch Brothers.

And yet still another — to Judicial Watch.  This organization has made no secret of its desire to restrict the opportunities of ‘undesirables’ to vote, as indicated by some of its activities in Florida and other states.

“Judicial Watch is crusading to force states to carry out voter-roll purges like the one that has subjected Florida to multiple lawsuits. Together with Judicial Watch, True the Vote formed the 2012 Election Integrity Project, launched in February at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Through the Election Integrity Project, the group has sued to allow Florida’s purge program to commence, and has sent letters threatening lawsuits in Indiana and Ohio to do the same.” [HuffPo]

In the No Surprise Department we find Judicial Watch teaming up with the Election Integrity Project to “watch” the 2012 elections.  In case anyone was thinking some 700 people in Nevada’s Clean Up The Vote campaign came to all their notions from burning sage brush — the Clean Up The Vote is an affiliate of True The Vote. [NPR]

Follow the Record

It’s all well and proper to note the funding chain linking the Koch Brothers and their ultra-right wing allies with organizations seeking to propose and enact vote suppression activities, and another to claim that a particular candidate is aligned with their intentions. What’s the record?

During the 2013 Legislative session, Senator Cegavske was one of the primary sponsors of SB 239 in the fine print of which was the coordination of Social Security Administration and voter registration lists to “insure” dead people weren’t voting. Further, the bill would have allowed county clerks and election officials to send out sample ballots electronically.   First, we’d have to believe that there are “dead people” voting.  During testimony on the measure, Senator Settelmeyer (R-CUSA) defended the bill citing that his recently decease mother was still on the mailing lists of several candidates and campaigns. [Legis PDF]

Senator Cegavske also cited a family matter, noting that her mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease was in a Minnesota nursing facility and the family had requested that mailings not be sent to her home address.  Representatives from the Secretary of State’s office noted that we should be cautious about removing anyone from voter rolls simply for being old, and that statutes do provide a process by which suffrage could be refused. [Legis PDF] At no point during the testimony on April 9, 2013 did any of the proponents of the bill describe any actual instances of fraudulent voting by or on behalf of dead people, demented people, or any other imposters.  There was no such testimony on May 8, 2013. [LegisPDF]   Nor was there any such testimony on May 20, 2013. [Legis PDF]

The Assembly side took up the bill on May 29, 2013.  Once more Sen. Settelmeyer spoke of his mother, but again, there was no testimony that any such actual voting impropriety had ever taken place. [Legis PDF] Nor was any such testimony forthcoming at the final hearing on June 3, 2013. [Legis PDF]

In 2009 Senator Cegavske was also concerned about fraudulent voting, as a primary sponsor of SB 315.  The bill received two hearings in the Nevada State Senate.  During the first of which the  point that photo identification was a “solution in search of a problem”  as opposed to the proponents laudatory contributions about the Indiana Voter Photo ID bill. [Legis PDF] During the last hearing Senator Lee asked the obvious: Do we need SB 315?  Senator Washington offered the Suppressionist Party Line in response:

“The voting process is sacred. We never want to give the impression of fraudulent voting. We need something in place to determine if there is voter fraud. Poll workers are there to stop any fraudulent voting. This would add one more safeguard to maintain integrity in the voting process.” [Leg PDF]

SB 315 died in committee. Note, once again, only the potential — after explanations aplenty from county and state officials that there was no evidence of voter impersonation — of fraud was ever alleged. At no point in testimony in either 2009 or 2013 was evidence of actual fraud brought forth.

We can go back yet another session, to 2007, in which Senator Cegavske sponsored SB 385, to require that county clerks issue voter ID cards.  The theme remained the same, there was a potential problem with impersonation — during the testimony given on the bill no one offered a single instance of actual voter fraud to the committee on March 27, 2007. [Leg PDF]  The bill got a “do pass” recommendation from the Senate committee, on March 29, 2007, but no examples of actual voter fraud emerged. [Leg PDF]

SB 385 came up for discussion again on May 3, 2007, with Barry Gold of the AARP testifying that approximately 125,000 elderly Nevadans would be negatively impacted by the bill. The hearing closed. [LegPDF]  A second hearing provided more examples of voter inconvenience and expense than it did of any real problems, especially since none of the latter were mentioned.  [LegPDF]  The bill never emerged from the State Senate.

And so, since 2007 Senator Cegavske has been looking for the solution to Senator Washington’s “problem,” i.e. how should legislation be crafted so that no Republican can ever claim any indication of potential voter fraud?   This is particularly difficult since the underpinning of the voter fraud allegations is the notion that Democrats can only win elections by cheating, and therefore, if a Democrat wins it must be by nefarious means.

We might await the day when more than six members of the Republican Party are willing to admit that various forms of suppression including purging rolls and photo identification requirements are simply about disenfranchising those who are likely to vote Democratic.  [National Memo]

It would be seemly if Senator Cegavske, while campaigning to assume the mantle of elections chief in this state would care to take some time to explain why she sought “solutions” to election problems which never actually took place, and existed only in the heated imaginations of right wing, Koch Brothers funded, political operatives and their think tanks.

 

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NRS 293.463 and Nevada Voters

Ballot BoxWith all the recent discussion of vote suppression strategies and tactics emanating from the right wing of our national politics, there’s at least one aspect of the issue that isn’t getting much attention.  What is the economic impact of suggestions to curtail voting, especially those ideas put forward which would eliminate early voting, voting by mail, and other such concepts?

A Time and Distance Problem?

The crux of the issue for employers is that “Employees in Nevada are entitled to a sufficient period of time off to vote, without penalty, if there is not sufficient time outside working hours when the polls are open.”  [BizTK] The entire framework is set forth in NRS 293.463:

 NRS 293.463 Employees may absent themselves from employment to vote: Procedure; penalty. 1.Any registered voter may be absent from his or her place of employment at a time to be designated by the employer for a sufficient time to vote,  if it is impracticable for the voter to vote before or after his or her hours of employment. A sufficient time to vote shall be determined as follows:  (a) If the distance between the place of such voter’s employment and the polling place where such person votes is 2 miles or less, 1 hour.  (b) If the distance is more than 2 miles but not more than 10 miles, 2 hours. (c) If the distance is more than 10 miles, 3 hours.  2. Such voter may not, because of such absence, be discharged, disciplined or penalized, nor shall any deduction be made from his or her usual salary or wages by reason of such absence. 3.Application for leave of absence to vote shall be made to the employer or person authorized to grant such leave prior to the day of the election.

Note that in the Nevada statute the “sufficient” time involved in voting is determined by the distance between the polling station and the place of work.  It is not qualified by the number of minutes — or even hours — a person is standing in line waiting to vote.  In short, Nevada’s statutes allow for travel time to get to the polls, but not wait time.* An Attorney General’s opinion (pdf) from December 2, 1986 sought to clarify the statute:

“NRS 293.463 is a statute which should be interpreted and applied in a liberal manner in order to achieve its salutary purpose of ensuring that employees have the unfettered opportunity to vote during an election.  If it is impracticable for an employee to vote before or after the workday and the employee meets the other qualifying terms of the provision, the plain language of the statute affords the employee a specified amount of time absent from the workplace in which to vote.”

An employer is not liable for any penalty under the provisions of NRS 293.463 if the law has been generously applied so that the employee has an “unfettered opportunity” to vote.   The statute doesn’t mention any fetters applied when the prospective voter gets to the polling station, stands in line and watches the minutes tick away until the “deadline” is reached. At this juncture both the employee and the employer are at the mercy of the election officials.   What happens when a shortage of ballots, a shortage of election machines, a shortage of polling stations, or other inopportune situation creates long waits at the polls?  Is a worker to be penalized wages lost if he or she is standing in line for more than 3 hours at the polling place 3 miles from work?  Is the employer to continue to pay an employee who, at no  fault of their own, exceeds the maximum number of hours absent for the purpose of voting? Extending voting times, including the use of early voting opportunities, helps resolve some of the questions otherwise left to the judgment of employees and employers.  Employees and employers who have “regular” hours, 9-5 Monday through Friday, can put these issues aside if the employee can avail him or herself of Saturday voting periods.

Sheer Numbers

The population of the United States of America in the first census of 1790 was 3,929,214 individuals.  Since women could not vote we must subtract 1,541,263 free white women from the voting total.  We must also subtract the 694,280 enslaved persons from the total eligible to vote.  There were 791,850 free white males under the age of 16, and ineligible to vote, so we have to subtract these numbers from the total as well.  The vote was the province of property owning white males, who comprised between 10% and 16% of the total population.   If we take the most generous figure, 16%, then we can conclude that there were only 628,674 eligible voters in the entire country in 1790.   In short, the entire voting population in 1790 was less than the current total population of Denver, Colorado (634,265.) [Pop] The relatively small numbers fit the original establishment of an election day in the United States:

“The United States was an agrarian society in the mid 1800′s, and it was believed that November would be the best month to hold elections, since harvest would have been completed. Tuesday was the best day of the week because it did not interfere with the Sabbath, yet gave farmers enough time to travel to the polling places. Wednesday was traditionally market day, and therefore not a good choice.” [IslandLaw]

Thus, now an industrial/financial predominantly urban  nation has an election day set for an agrarian, predominantly rural society.   The time it takes to vote is not only a function of the time allowable for the electorate to show up at the polls, but also of the capacity of the officials to conduct the election itself.

Numbers also show us the problems associated with this task in Nevada. The state’s total vote in the national election of 1920 was 27,194.  In the 2012 election 1,014,918 voters cast ballots in the national election.  Obviously, a system and staffing which could handle less than 30,000 voters statewide would be over-run by an increase of 3632%. Nevada Total Votes castThe notion that the state of Nevada could realistically accommodate the needs of Nevada’s employers and employees on a single election day in a single block of time from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. doesn’t seem possible given the increasing numbers of voters who have been casting ballots at our polling stations. Nor does it seem reasonable to conclude that even the voting population of Clark County (Las Vegas, and environs) could be reasonably accommodated under previous systems and protocols. Clark County Population IncreaseThe single day, single block of hours, which worked from 1920 to 1950 would have been stressed by 1970, and overwhelmed by at least 1990? The picture is essentially the same in the other major population area, Washoe County: Washoe County Population Increase

Options

If the “single day/single time block” system for voting cannot reasonably allow voters to cast ballots within the times specified, then adjustments must be made if the spirit of NRS 293.463 is to be followed.   One option is to hire more staff and create more polling sites, with more election supplies and equipment. This option has been commonly adopted nationwide because EAVS statistics confirm that the number of precincts has increased from 167,037 in 1980 to 185,994 in 2004. [pdf]  Most states have between 1 and 2 precincts per polling place; Nevada, as of 2004, had about 3 per polling station. [pdf] However, there comes a point at which combining precincts and creating new polling places becomes prohibitively expensive.  The applicability of the option is proportional to the willingness of the community to tax itself in order to expand its voting operations.

Nevada employers, as patriotic as anyone else, are faced with the prospect of impeding that “unfettered opportunity to vote during an election” required by NRS 293.463, or the option of higher local taxation to pay for making voting more accessible in a single day/single time block system.  Ironically, it may be the employer who could find his or her opportunity to vote in a single day/single block system impinged by having to cover for employees tied up in voting place lines during working hours?

Another option for handling these Sheer Numbers is in early voting, which in 2014 will be from May 24 to June 6 for primary elections, and from October 18 to October 31 for the general elections.   Early voting allows the election officials to spread the work load along an extended time period.   It also gives employers some relief from having to release employees during working hours, and from, in some instances, having to cover for them and pay them for lost time during regular working days. Several counties have adopted mail in ballots for small and/or remote precincts.  Information regarding “mail in precincts” is available from county clerks or voting registrars.  Rural counties have adopted these precincts/mail vote systems to reduce the expenses involved in establishing fully staffed and equipped voting places in areas where the total population is such that the expense isn’t judged justifiable.

The Objections

The most common objection to modifying the single day/single time block voting system is that it somehow “diminishes the civic experience.”   The argument is generally supported by the contention that if people have given their lives and honor for the right to vote, current voters can at least stand in line for a few hours.   The logic of this contention depends on conflating the Right to Vote with the Exercise of Voting Rights.   Indeed, many have lost their very lives for the Right to Vote, but one might reasonably assume that no one has given their all for the Right to Vote in A Single Day, Single Time Block Voting System. What people want, from all sides of the political spectrum, is the capacity to exercise those voting rights, to take advantage of the opportunity to vote in our democracy.

The “civic experience” is reduced, not by extending opportunities with extended or early voting, or with mail in ballots, but when people do not have convenient access to Exercise the rights they appreciate.  Why should voting be convenient?  Because it is an essential part of our “civic experience,” which should be shared by as many eligible voters as possible.

Other objections are predicated on campaign processes.  It is said that early voting requires campaigns to recalibrate their expenses.  Of all the stake holders in the election process, the campaigns may have the least grounds for objections — they entered into the campaign voluntarily, and if they seek voters to their candidate or cause, they need to take the “calibration” of the electorate into consideration before calculating their own campaign’s “calibrations” and ad buys.

A few have objected that “all the facts” aren’t available to those who vote early, and who thereby miss the last minute advertising, and campaign press releases.  This argument might have more merit if the last minute campaign rhetoric weren’t so often specious and spurious.   All too often, waiting until the the eve of an election day garners only the most questionable information, and the attendant cynicism that the information was released at the last minute because it couldn’t withstand 24 hours of fact-checking.

Those who oppose the mail in system for extending the exercise of the vote object to the potential for abuse.  One right wing blog proposed that spouses of a different political party could “lose” the person’s ballot.  If we have so many marriages in this country which are on such shaky ground, then our problem isn’t on the calendar or at the precinct, it’s in the paucity of affordable marriage counseling.

Evidence for “mail in ballot” abuse most often comes from absentee balloting, although one case in Oregon concerned their mail in ballot system. Oregon, which uses mail in ballots, experienced one problem in Clackamas County with a temporary election worker. ” State Department of Justice officials won’t talk about the criminal investigation into allegations that a temporary elections worker cast additional votes for Republicans in races voters left blank.” [Oregonian] Tampering with ballots in Oregon is a Class C felony, with an ‘ up to five year prison term’ and a $125,000 fine.  The Swenson Case was the first involving the mail in votes, and the Oregon City woman pleaded guilty to the offense in April, 2013. [KATU] Oregon is reviewing its ballot handling and processing procedures.

“The misconduct occurred less than a week before the general election, creating concern that the legitimacy of some results would be questioned. The tampering, however, apparently did not affect any races. All the suspect ballots were reviewed to identify voter intent — or, in this case, lack of intent — and then counted.”  [KATU]

Thus much for this much cited case. The last common objection is that mail in balloting and extended voting depress turnout.   Here we meet the Wisconsin Study, and a new term “civic stimulation.”  However, the study contains some elements which cast doubt on the simple conclusion.   In some states campaigns reduced their activities based on the early returns.  It could as easily be argued that if this reduction in campaigning caused less turnout, then the turn out is a function of the campaigning and not the election process itself –The campaign having made a calculated decision that it had probably reached all the voters it was going to get. In short, it depressed its own turnout. The research also concluded that even when extended voting was available the depression factor was reduced if same day registration was allowed.

What depresses turnout?  Voter Suppression Tactics

“The study, conducted by University of Massachusetts Boston professors Keith Bentele and Erin O’Brien, examined restrictive voting laws proposed between 2006 and 2011. That included voter ID laws, proof of citizenship requirements, voter registration limits, early voting and absentee voting restrictions, and restrictions on felons’ voting rights. They found that “the more that minorities and lower-income individuals in a state voted, the more likely such restrictions were to be proposed.” [TP]

No surprise there, and only abetted by the creative ways the ‘suppressionists’ have devised to gut the Voting Rights Act. [NYT] In the mean time, arguments for making voting more arduous, or to enhance that “civic experience” or “civic stimulation,” can’t erase the sheer numbers of voters who must be accommodated by local election officials.  Nor do such arguments assist employers and employees who seek unfettered opportunities to vote in Nevada elections.

The Bottom Line

The economic impact may not be easily quantifiable, but if we conjecture that the losses in terms of wages and productivity must be increased as more employers find they have to release more workers for longer periods of time to exercise their right to vote, then the result isn’t good for either the employers or the political system.   What might be calculable at a micro-level is the reduction in expenses when employees can exercise their voting rights on their own time.   An employer with five employees, all of whom have access to mail in ballots or extended voting times, will be paying far less to satisfy the requirements of NRS 293.463 than the employer who has to release five employees during the day to stand in polling place lines.

* See also: Labor and Employment Laws in the State of Nevada, Fisher & Phillips LLP, PDF

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