Tag Archives: Nevada voting

A Little Help For The Fraudulent Election Commission: Nevada Edition

I’m not sure why an investigation of election irregularities is necessary, at least as far as Nevada is concerned, when the information a person would want is easily located in the Reports from the Secretary of State (pdf)  However, there’s some information contained therein which needs a bit of explication and expansion.  Details below, first the Secretary of State’s description of the 3 (that would be only three) incidents of prosecutable election related crimes, then the follow up.

Roxanne Rubin

“In 2012, EITF agents arrested a southern Nevada woman charged with
attempting to vote twice in the same election. Roxanne Rubin early voted in
the 2012 general election at a polling location in Clark County. Later the same
day she appeared at a different Clark County early voting polling location and
attempted to vote a second time. The poll worker conducted a routine
computer database search which indicated that Rubin had already voted and
informed her of this. Rubin responded that she had not already voted, but a
search of the computer database reconfirmed that she had already voted at a
different polling place. Poll workers did not allow Rubin to vote and reported
the incident to the Clark County Registrar of Voters’ office, which notified the
Secretary of State’s office. Rubin was taken to the Clark County Detention
Center, and charged with one count of voting more than once in the same
election, a Category “D” felony.”

The outcome of this case was a plea deal for Rubin, who offered an interesting defense of her actions.

“A Nevada Republican arrested for voter fraud in the 2012 election, after claiming she was trying to test the system’s integrity, pled guilty and accepted a plea deal Thursday, forcing her to pay almost $2,500 and promise to stay out of trouble.

Roxanne Rubin, 56, a casino worker on the Las Vegas Strip, was arrested on Nov. 3, 2012 after trying to vote twice, once at her poling site in Henderson and then at a second site in Las Vegas. The poll workers at the second site said that she had already voted, but Rubin said that she hadn’t and insisted on casting a ballot, which the poll workers refused to allow her to do.

Rubin said that she was trying to show how easy it would be to commit voter fraud with just a signature. “This has always been an issue with me. I just feel the system is flawed,” she told the AP Thursday. “If we’re showing ID for everything else, why wouldn’t we show our ID in order to vote?”

Rubin, like many Republicans, claim that the threat from voter fraud — which is close to non-existent — is why voter ID laws need to be in place. But Nevada has no voter ID law — other than for first-time voters who didn’t show ID when they registered to vote — and she was caught anyway.”  [HPost]

There’s more than a handful of irony in this case.  A Republican, filled with the thoughts of all those “illegals” voting, decided to “test” the system — and got a conviction for a class D felony.  In short, the system worked.  And now, the second case:

Ortencia Segura 

The EITF also worked on a case in 2014 involving an undocumented
immigrant who registered to vote under a false name and cast ballots in the
2008 and 2010 federal elections in Nevada. Ortencia Segura was charged with
one count of an act concerning registration of voters and one count of
possession of personal identifying information for the purpose of establishing
false status and/or identity. She pleaded guilty to willfully and unlawfully
giving a false answer to the Washoe County Registrar of Voters and falsifying
her application to register to vote.
An immigrant living in the country illegally has pleaded guilty in Reno to violating election laws after she registered to vote in Washoe County under a false name and cast ballots in the 2008 and 2010 Nevada elections.

This is one of those cases that gets cited as “proof” there could be massive fraud perpetrated by those “illegals.”  However, as in the previous case, there’s a kicker.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports Hortencia Segura-Munoz was sentenced Wednesday to 103 days in jail. But she was given credit for 103 days already served on the single gross misdemeanor count of “conspiracy to commit violations concerning registration of voters.”

Segura-Munoz also was ordered to pay $1,000 in costs and fees. She originally was arrested on two felony charges of voter fraud.

Prosecutors say she registered as a Republican, but it’s not known which candidates she voted for or if her voting affected any close elections.  [KOLO]

We might reasonably surmise she voted the way she registered?  And now we come to the third and last prosecutable case in the state of Nevada:

Tina Marie Parks

“Most recently, in July 2016 EITF agents arrested a Pahrump, Nevada, woman
accused of falsifying voter registration applications. Tina Marie Parks, an
employee of the community organization group Engage Nevada, is charged
with 11 felonies related to fraudulently marking the party affiliation of three
people while assisting them to register to vote and attempting to register to
vote herself while being a convicted felon without her voting rights restored.
Parks is currently awaiting trial.”

This third case really isn’t about fraudulent voting at all, it’s about fraud committed on registration forms, and yet again — we have a fly in the ointment.

A Pahrump woman was arrested Wednesday on 11 felony charges involving allegations she falsified party affiliations while registering voters before the June 14 Nevada primary, the secretary of state’s office said.
An arrest warrant issued for Tina Marie Parks listed bail at $50,000 cash or $100,000 bond.
The arrest follows an investigation conducted by the state’s Election Integrity Task Force after it received complaints from voters who said Parks, while working for the conservative outreach group Engage Nevada, filled out their applications and listed the wrong party affiliation.
In two instances, voters said Parks marked their party as Republican. Another was marked as nonpartisan. All three told investigators they wanted to register as Democrats.  [LVRJ]

It’s hard to draw any major conclusions from a data set of three, only two of which involve actual voting, but all three are related to voting related frauds by those identified as Republicans.  Only one involves voting by a person not a citizen of the United States, one was a deliberate attempt (unsuccessful) to game the system, and one was in violation of voter registration statutes.

However, much like the motive in the unfortunate Rubin case, the mythology lingers on in conservative Republican circles that there must be massive voting fraud in this country —  Why else would Democrats win elections in urban areas? Why else would Republican candidates of ideological purity and righteousness lose at the polls?  For those who cannot admit that the GOP didn’t run a very good candidate, or that the candidate didn’t have an appealing message, the answer must lie in the mists of Machine Politics of Yesteryear.   The hard fact my well be that Franklin Delano Roosevelt made the old machinery redundant.

After the New Deal provided jobs, the precinct captains and ward bosses were no longer the place to find employment.  After Social Security was enacted, the donations from the wards and precincts weren’t necessary to put food on the tables of elders in the neighborhood.  True, there are still some effective political organizations in the US, but in the wake of Medicare, Medicaid, and employment training programs their activities are now more overtly political and far less covertly economic.

Anchors Away

There are some emotional anchors for the mythology, which underpin the conservative fears in the face of overwhelming evidence that voting fraud is definitely not a significant problem in the US, and that states are perfectly capable of handling what few instances there are.

Frankly, one of the anchors is embedded in racism and racial stereotypes.  “They” must be voting against us, if we (read: white) aren’t winning.  “They” aren’t “real Americans.”  The roots go back to Black Codes, Jim Crow, and the segregated South of the Lost Cause.  They also catch on to elements of anti-Semitic, anti-Irish and anti-Italian sentiment of this earlier era.  The latest targets of these attacks are those people of Mexican or Central American heritage.  The target may change but the anchor doesn’t.  Commission member Chris Kobach is still on national television peddling the debunked North Kansas City case of Somalis illegally voting in the Rizzo-Royster Case. As long as these contentions go unchallenged the argument will live on.

Another anchor, related to the one described above, is the the Tip of the Iceberg argument.  If there is one instance of voting fraud then there must be much more hidden from our view.  It’s hard to present a rational argument to counter this irrational perspective.   Present the fearful with:

“And yet the numbers indicate that voter fraud is incredibly rare. According to NBC, a News21 analysis of 2,068 instances of alleged fraud nationwide during the elections between 2000 and 2012 pinpointed just 10 cases of voter impersonation in a pool of about 146 million total voters.” [aol]

The rejoinder nearly always resembles something like, “Well, prove that there aren’t millions of illegal voters who get away with it.”

A third anchor relies on another a fear of the potential.  If an enhanced fear of actual voting fraud is statistically irrational, then the fear that there is an immense potential for ever more fraud is based on little more than an unadulterated sense of peril.  The dead-voter-fraud argument is illustrative of this kind of anchor.  If the rolls of Precinct 10 in West Elk Hair contain the names of two individuals who are now deceased, then there is the Potential for two acts of voting fraud.  This argument only works IF ballots are cast in those two names.  It’s an uncontroversial fact that the dead don’t vote. However, if one amasses a long list of names which have not yet been removed from voter rolls then the argument contends that this represents a distressing potential for voting fraud — and again those of good faith in the system are called upon to defend a negative:  Prove that none of these people voted.

The infamous Cross Check voter suppression project is also related to this Potential Argument.  If James Smith is registered to vote in Ottumwa, IA and James Smith is registered to vote in Sarasota, FL then there is Potential double voting.  Probably not. Especially not if one is James L. Smith and the other James R. Smith, or if one is 22 and the other is 37, or if any other test is applied, which in some Cross Check cases seems to have been missing.

When we whittle away the “anchors” and examine the background of voting “fraud” fears in this country we are left back at the starting gate — there are simply some people who do not want other individuals who are unlike themselves voting in local, state, and national elections.  This is NO way to run a republic.

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Nevada Secretary of State’s Office, Where 3 Is Greater than 520

There are a couple of news items which should cause us some concern, other than the inability of the current President to speak the words, “The Russians hacked into our elections.”

First, there are the efforts by the Russians to continue their intrusions into our elections:

“Since the November election, US intelligence and law enforcement agencies have detected an increase in suspected Russian intelligence officers entering the US under the guise of other business, according to multiple current and former senior US intelligence officials. The Russians are believed to now have nearly 150 suspected intelligence operatives in the US, these sources said. Officials who spoke to CNN say the Russians are replenishing their ranks after the US in December expelled 35 Russian diplomats suspected of spying in retaliation for election-meddling.”  [CNNI]

Secondly, there’s James Clapper’s assessment that the Russians are prepping the battlefield for 2018. (video)  This should raise some concerns from Nevada’s election officials.

Thus far Nevada’s chief election official, the Secretary of State, has agreed to hand over such Nevada voter registration data as is a matter of public record to the Pence/Kobach Commission, and not the full list of information Kobach’s Commission has requested…without any reference as to whether his Commission will pay for the data as any other political institution or agency would be asked to do.  The security of the information, given the increased Russian interest in our elections, is highly questionable.  Nor is the question answered about the rationale for the Commission in the first place.  However, it does sound a bit like Nevada’s Election Integrity Task Force which receives plaudits and plenty of attention in the Secretary of State’s Biennial Report for 2015-2016. (pdf)

The EITF ferreted out some cases of voting irregularities rising to the level of prosecutable offenses: One case of double voting in Clark County in 2012; one case of an undocumented immigrant voting in Washoe County in 2014; and one case in Nye County of improperly completed voter registration forms in 2016.  That’s IT.  Three cases.  Adding a soupçon of context:  In 2012 there were 1,016,664 votes cast.  In 2014 there were 552,326 votes cast, and in 2016 there were 1,125,429 votes cast in Nevada.  In 2012 there were a total  of 1,082,705 active voters on Nevada rolls; there were 1,193,194 active voters on Nevada rolls in 2014; and, in 2016 there were 1,334,959 active voters on the rolls.  [NVSoS]  Somehow, this context wouldn’t seem to justify a “Task Force” on any subject.

There are some other numbers which seem to call for greater attention and concern, and these are located in the Nevada Executive Budget for FY 2016-2017 (pdf).  One of the performance measures included in the Secretary of State’s budget concerns the number of electronic viruses neutralized by its IT personnel.  The actual numbers are available for 2011 (300), 2012 (375), 2013 (391), and 2014 (407), with projected numbers for 2015 (442), 2016 (480), and 2017 (520).  See a trend? The budget descriptors don’t indicate if these were malware, spyware, or someone trying to hack into corporate records, but the steadily increasing number from 2011 onward isn’t comforting…and now we have more Russians running loose in the country, “setting up the battlefield for 2018.”

However, our Secretary of State seems to have her own battlefield, as of last April, when she alleged there was voting by non-citizens in the 2016 election as a result of Department of Motor Vehicles practices (based on a March memo of understanding about the practices which bears her signature.)  It’s July, and Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske has yet to make public any information confirming or substantiating her allegations.   We might be excused for believing, on the basis of this information that in her office 3 is of greater concern than 520.

 

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Filed under Nevada politics, Politics, Vote Suppression, Voting

The Happy Hackers Act HR 634: A Second Look

Let’s return for a moment to HR 634, otherwise known in this space as the “Happy Hackers Act of 2017.”

The link above should take you to the text of the bill as introduced by Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS).  In one page the bill terminates the Election Assistance Commission, puts the OMB in charge of “transition,” fobs the duties off on the dysfunctional FEC, and off we go into the wild west of happy hackers.

The bill was introduced on January 24, 2017 and was reported out on a 6-3 party line vote in the House Committee on Administration on February 7th, the same day Democrats filed objections  (pdf) to the measure with the House Committee on Administration.  Democrats noted that the EAC plays a “critical role in holding voting machine vendors accountable and ensuring certification standards remain high.”

Placing jurisdiction over federal election system regulation in the hands of the FEC is cynical at best and destructive at worst.  Atlantic magazine reported in December 2013 that the FEC was “broken” amid a flood of cases of questionable money flowing into campaigns, with feuds boiling between commissioners, and a hack attack attributed to agents of the Chinese government. Two years later the New York Times reported the FEC was incapable of curbing election abuses in the upcoming 2016 elections.   On February 20, 2017 the Chairwoman of the FEC resigned.   It is into the hands of this commission, now with one independent,  three Republicans, one Democrat, and one vacant seat, that the House Administration Committee wants to place the future of voting machines and certification standards.   The ill-advised HR 634 would place certification standards in the hands of an underfunded, understaffed (300 employees to cover 8,000 election jurisdictions in 50 states plus the District of Columbia) agency.  This is conducive to yet another layer of backlogs as questions raised about voting machine security and certification standards would be added to an already debilitated commission. If the intention is to slash oversight on voting machine/system security HR 634 would certainly accomplish that goal.

We’ve been the unfortunate recipient of hacking into our elections at the hands of the Russian government (2016) a conclusion reached by 16 intelligence agencies and the intelligence community leadership, despite the President’s feckless commentary on the subject; and if security standards are unenforced then we’re at even greater risk of intrusion into what has heretofore been unavailable to Russian hackers — the actual vote tally itself.

It’s unfortunate the bill was reported out of committee last February, it would be even more lamentable if the bill were to make it to the floor for a vote; and yet

more calamitous should the bill pass the House of Representatives.


Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) can be reached at 5310 Kietzke Lane #103, Reno, Nevada 89511; 905 Railroad Street #104D, Elko, NV 89801; or 332 Cannon Building, Washington, DC 20515.

Representative Ruben Kihuen (D-NV4): 313 Cannon Building, Washington, DC 20515; 2250 North Las Vegas Blvd #500, North Las Vegas, NV 89030

Representative Jacky Rosen (D-NV3): 8872 S. Eastern Avenue #220, Las Vegas, NV 89123; 413 Cannon Office Building, Washington, DC 20515.

Representative Dina Titus (D-NV1): 2464 Rayburn Office Building, Washington, DC 20515; 495 S. Main St. 3rd floor, Las Vegas, NV 89101.

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Questions Remain About Nevada Crosscheck Program

I must admit I’m not fundamentally opposed to the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program – IF it will prevent Allistair Barrenfarm Gotrocks IV from rolling his Bentley to his convenient polling precinct in the Hamptons early on some fine election morning, then hopping into his Bombardier Global 8000 to his equally convenient polling station for his second home in Florida; while his absentee ballot is counted in his resort community of Ketchum, Idaho.  This, I could do without.  However…

As RollingStone magazine pointed out last August, this isn’t the ulterior purpose of the Crosscheck Program.   The process was supposed to have included names (including middle names and initials) birthdays, and Social Security numbers.   If the voting officials in a particular state don’t require the Social Security number, the birthday, and the middle name all that the Crosscheck list presents is a mass of very common names.  And, the bias begins:

“This inherent bias results in an astonishing one in six Hispanics, one in seven Asian-Americans and one in nine African-Americans in Crosscheck states landing on the list. Was the program designed to target voters of color? “I’m a data guy,” Swedlund says. “I can’t tell you what the intent was. I can only tell you what the outcome is. And the outcome is discriminatory against minorities.”  [RollingStone]

The response from Nevada, which participates in the Crosscheck program,  was a bit confusing.  A Nevada official replied to the Crosscheck question by saying:

“I can’t comment specifically on their study. What I can say is that in Nevada, we follow the federal and state procedures when it comes to removing voters from the rolls. We don’t look at a person’s name. We don’t actually collect demographic data on voters, so we don’t know race, ethnicity on any voters in our list.” [News4]

How can maintenance of up to date voter registration lists be done without looking at names? Either John P. Smith, of Henderson, NV has voted in the last two general elections – or he hasn’t.  He’s either been declared dead by Social Security officials – or he hasn’t.   The official from the Nevada Secretary of State’s office got a bit more specific:

“Wayne Thorley, Nevada’s deputy secretary of state for elections, counters that the program just matches data and doesn’t target anyone.
“Just because someone comes back as a match on the Interstate Crosscheck list, it doesn’t automatically trigger cancellation of their account,” he said. “And then, further investigation is done by the state.”
He said Nevada also uses the Electronic Registration Information Center to match names from the Crosscheck list with DMV records. Voters then get a postcard to verify their address and if they don’t respond and don’t vote in two elections, they’re dropped from the rolls.” [PNS.org]

It seems that names do matter?  However, there are still questions which might be raised about how the Crosscheck list is actually used in Nevada. For example:  What further investigation is done by the State?  Does this mean that the election officials just compare the voter registration with DMV records?   The NAC can provide us with a bit more clarification regarding how the Secretary of State’s office is to handle voter lists:

NAC 293.462  Verification of information by Secretary of State. (NRS 293.124, 293.675)  On each business day, the Secretary of State will check the contents of the statewide voter registration list by:

     1.  Determining whether any person is included as a registered voter in the statewide voter registration list more than once.

     2.  For every registered voter who submitted an application to register to vote on or after January 1, 2006, comparing the driver’s license number, identification card number or last four digits of the social security number of the voter set forth in the statewide voter registration list, if any, with the information in the appropriate database of the Department.

     (Added to NAC by Sec’y of State by R018-07, eff. 9-18-2008)”

At least Nevada officials must incorporate at least part of the Social Security number in the “investigation.”  But when we’re just starting to get comfortable there’s this section which isn’t quite so clear:

“NAC 293.466  Correction of inaccurate or duplicative information; casting of provisional ballot in certain circumstances. (NRS 293.124, 293.675)

     1.  If a county clerk receives notice from the Secretary of State or another county clerk that the statewide voter registration list contains information that is potentially inaccurate, duplicative or otherwise requiring verification, the county clerk shall, not later than 5 calendar days after receiving such notification, take such action as is necessary to correct the information in the statewide voter registration list and in the computerized database established pursuant to NAC 293.454.

     2.  If the county clerk is unable to obtain the correct information relating to the voter that is described in subsection 1 before the day of an election, the voter must show such identification before any ballot may be cast, except that a voter may cast a provisional ballot pursuant to the provisions of NRS 293.3081 to 293.3086, inclusive.

     (Added to NAC by Sec’y of State by R018-07, eff. 9-18-2008)”

What would make a state election official think a registration was ‘potentially inaccurate?’ Duplicative? “Otherwise requiring verification?”  If a Crosscheck list shows a John Paul Smith registered to vote in Richmond, VA and a John P. Smith registered to voter in Henderson, NV, then does this make John P. Smith liable for be investigated as “otherwise requiring verification?”  The Nevada Revised Statutes make this a little more clear:

“NRS 293.675  Establishment and maintenance of list; requirements pertaining to list; duties of county and city clerks; cooperative agreement with Department of Motor Vehicles; verification of information in conjunction with Social Security Administration; agreements with state agencies to obtain information necessary for list; information may be requested from or provided to chief election officers of other states.

      1.  The Secretary of State shall establish and maintain an official statewide voter registration list, which may be maintained on the Internet, in consultation with each county and city clerk.   2.  The statewide voter registration list must:

      (a) Be a uniform, centralized and interactive computerized list;

      (b) Serve as the single method for storing and managing the official list of registered voters in this State;

      (c) Serve as the official list of registered voters for the conduct of all elections in this State;

      (d) Contain the name and registration information of every legally registered voter in this State;

      (e) Include a unique identifier assigned by the Secretary of State to each legally registered voter in this State;

      (f) Except as otherwise provided in subsection 6, be coordinated with the appropriate databases of other agencies in this State;

      (g) Be electronically accessible to each state and local election official in this State at all times;

      (h) Except as otherwise provided in subsection 7, allow for data to be shared with other states under certain circumstances; and

      (i) Be regularly maintained to ensure the integrity of the registration process and the election process.”  (emphasis added)

If (e ) above requiring the unique verifier is applied then the probability that a person can be purged from voter registration lists is diminished, especially if this means both the full name and the Social Security number.  We’re still not quite out of the woods yet.

We’re still going to have to deal with domestic migration, especially in Clark County:

“People moving to Clark County from other places in the United States are at a five-year high, data released by the U.S. Census on Thursday show. The number of people moving into the county from within the U.S. outnumbered residents moving out from July 1, 2014, to July 1, 2015. The net increase, which has been rising for the past two years, was close to 25,000, with foreign migration accounting for an additional 8,000 new residents.

Clark County has grown incrementally over the last five years, rising from 0.7 percent growth in July 2011 to 2.2 percent growth in July 2015. What has changed is that domestic migration is driving that growth. Births minus deaths, or natural population change, once paralleled domestic migration numbers in the county from July 1, 2011, to July 1, 2013. The year before that, Clark County saw negative domestic migration. In the years following, domestic migration comprised most of the growth.”

[… ]  Just who are the new residents? January data of new Nevada driver’s license applicants show that a third, or 20,000, are from California followed by Texas and Florida at 3,000 each.

Perhaps more telling is that roughly half are in the 19-to-39 age range. Sure, some could be college students, but mostly, they are assumed to be part of the growing workforce that accompanies job growth.”  [LVRJ] (emphasis added)

The age range is important – 19-39, as in  eligible to vote.  How many “domestic migrants” to Nevada didn’t bother to tell California county clerks they moved, never intended to vote in a California election again, intended to be permanent residents in Nevada and register there?  The Didn’t Bother Factor drives some of the right wing conspiracy theories about the number of ineligible, i.e. potential duplicate, voters – particularly among the followers of Purger In Chief Kobach of Kansas:

“In January 2013, Kobach addressed a gathering of the National Association of State Election Directors about combating an epidemic of ballot-stuffing across the country. He announced that Crosscheck had already uncovered 697,537 “potential duplicate voters” in 15 states, and that the state of Kansas was prepared to cover the cost of compiling a nationwide list. That was enough to persuade 13 more states to hand over their voter files to Kobach’s office.”  [RS]

In the fevered minds of conspiracy theory advocates 697,537 “potential duplicate voters” is the same things as real ballot stuffing felons.  Some of these people are the same ones who believe “3,000,000 illegal votes were cast for Secretary Clinton in the last election.”  First, there was no epidemic of ballot stuffing across the country.  Secondly, this canard was spread by none other than Dick Morris, and promptly debunked. [Polifact]  Third, that didn’t stop the Federalist Society from climbing on board the “potential” fraud bandwagon citing conservative sources and 20 instances of fraudulent voter registration applications in Virginia.  Not actual voter fraud mind you, just fraudulent applications which obviously were caught. One of the more intriguing claims in the Federalist piece is that we can’t know how much voter fraud is going because people don’t report regular criminal behavior. Under reporting is not proof of criminal behavior, and arguments by analogy break down faster than just about any other form.

Since the Crosscheck program has been so problematic that Florida and Oregon have dropped it, and since the implementation of it has been plagued with the issues cited in the RollingStone article, Nevada should seriously consider dropping its participation.  Failing that, Nevada could consider specifying more clearly what the Unique Verifiers are in NRS 293.675 – requiring state election officials to compare middle names or at least initials, and Social Security numbers.   No county clerk’s office should be handed a list without the assurance of state officials that mistakes have not been made concerning ANY potential duplication.  The use of a faulty list to “improve election integrity” is self defeating and frankly makes no sense whatsoever.

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Warning: Vote Suppression Scheme includes Nevada

Crosscheck Nevada For those happily thinking that vote suppression schemes like CrossCheck are happening somewhere else, and that Republicans might be pulling shenanigans in lands far away – be WARNED as of 2013 Nevada joined the CrossCheck system.  And, not to his credit then Secretary of State Ross Miller bought into it.

First, consider the source, Kris Kobach. “So far, in his career, Kobach has been the guy that John Ashcroft tasked with weeding out foreign travelers in the wake of 9/11—and Kobach’s program was so deeply involved in racial profiling that it was shut down. He also was the author of Arizona’s notorious “Papers, Please” law.” [Esquire]

Second, consider HOW operation Cross Check works.

“Election officials in more than two dozen states have compiled lists of citizens whom they allege could be registered in more than one state – thus potentially able to cast multiple ballots – and eligible to be purged from the voter rolls.” [RS] (emphasis added)

The “could be” part of the sentence is important because it forms the basis of the vote suppression efforts.

“Crosscheck has tagged an astonishing 7.2 million suspects, yet we found no more than four perpetrators who have been charged with double voting or deliberate double registration.”  [RS]

How do 7.2 million people get to be “suspects?”  The methodology is incredibly sloppy.  If this isn’t by design then it’s at least a way to get the “most suspects possible” from a limited number of registrations.

“We found that one-fourth of the names on the list actually lacked a middle-name match. The system can also mistakenly identify fathers and sons as the same voter, ignoring designations of Jr. and Sr. A whole lot of people named “James Brown” are suspected of voting or registering twice, 357 of them in Georgia alone. But according to Crosscheck, James Willie Brown is supposed to be the same voter as James Arthur Brown. James Clifford Brown is allegedly the same voter as James Lynn Brown.” [RS]

It’s easy, if all the James Browns are lumped into one group then all become “suspect” and their voting rights denied on election day, as potential fraudulent voters.  Now imagine being a Smith, Johnson, Williams, Jones, Brown, Davis, Miller, Wilson, Moore, or Taylor in the United States – the top ten surnames in the 1990 census.  If Robert C. Brown moved to Nevada and didn’t bother to de-list his name from the Ohio rolls, Robert F. Brown could be struck from the list as a “potential” fraud. And, even if Robert C. Brown had absolutely NO intention of voting in Ohio, he’d still be viewed as a “potential” fraud.

RollingStone’s report continues:

“We had Mark Swedlund, a database expert whose clients include eBay and American Express, look at the data from Georgia and Virginia, and he was shocked by Crosscheck’s “childish methodology.” He added, “God forbid your name is Garcia, of which there are 858,000 in the U.S., and your first name is Joseph or Jose. You’re probably suspected of voting in 27 states.”

Including Nevada.  And who gets caught in this trap?

This inherent bias results in an astonishing one in six Hispanics, one in seven Asian-Americans and one in nine African-Americans in Crosscheck states landing on the list. Was the program designed to target voters of color? “I’m a data guy,” Swedlund says. “I can’t tell you what the intent was. I can only tell you what the outcome is. And the outcome is discriminatory against minorities.” [RS]

Why is this important? Because 27% of Nevada’s population is Hispanic.  9.3% of the Nevada population is African American. 8.5% is Asian. [Census]  What of the Social Security numbers and birthdays that were supposed to rectify this weakness in the Cross Check database?  The Social Security numbers weren’t on the lists Rolling Stone found.

According to the report, those entrapped by the Cross Check scheme are notified by a small print postcard which requires a response to the Secretary of State’s office.  It’s no secret who is less likely to return the post card – the young, the unemployed, those who move from job to job, minorities, women, and those in lower income brackets.  Precisely the people the Republicans don’t want voting.

The ACLU of Nevada has some voting tips for citizens of the state:

Check your voter registration status at least 30 days before the election. Locate your polling place and note the hours of operation.

Vote before Election Day, through early voting or absentee voting if possible. If you plan to vote at the polls, go early in the day to avoid the last-minute rush.

Bring identification even if it’s not required.

Read all instructions carefully. Take your time. Ask for help if you need it.”

We might want to add some additional tips – If you have a very common last name – If you have a surname which is common among ethnic minority populations – If you are a student – If you have moved recently – If you live in a neighborhood or precinct with a significant percentage of ethnic minority group population – Mark your calendar, perhaps on October 4th, and make certain of your voter registration well before the November 8th election.

Your vote counts – make sure it’s counted!

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A Small But Significant Win? NV Voting Rights Case sent back to Federal District Court

ballot box There was a small but perhaps significant win yesterday for those who believe that ALL eligible citizens in Nevada should have to opportunity to register to vote.

“A federal appeals court on Thursday revived a lawsuit alleging that the Nevada Health and Human Services Department has been disenfranchising potential low-income and disabled voters by not providing registration materials to clients at its offices as required by federal law.

The civil rights lawsuit, filed in 2012 by the National Council of Las Raza and two branches of the NAACP, had been dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Clive Jones after he determined the groups had no standing to bring the claims.

A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision, reviving the complaint that Nevada state officials are violating Section 7 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 by failing to make voter registration materials available to people who visit their offices.” [LVRJ]

Note, the Appeals Court isn’t saying that the NV HHS was, in fact, in violation of federal statutes, but that the District Court erred in declaring that the original plaintiffs didn’t have standing to file their suit.  Voting rights groups were pleased with the decision:

Voting rights groups Demos, Project Vote, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which represented the plaintiffs along with the law firms Dechert LLP and Woodburn and Wedge, applauded the decision.

“Today’s decision is a victory for low-income voters in Nevada and the community groups that serve them,” said Brenda Wright, Vice President for Legal Strategies at Demos. “The Ninth Circuit’s decision recognizes the fundamental importance of access to the courts in protecting the right to vote. We are pleased that the Ninth Circuit has rectified a miscarriage of justice by reinstating our clients’ voting rights claims.”

In its opinion, the Court rejected Nevada’s argument that the plaintiffs—organizations that conduct voter registration drives in low-income communities throughout the State—were not harmed by the state’s violations of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and therefore lacked “standing” to challenge them. 

“The Court recognized that Nevada is answerable to community groups that have been forced to pick up the slack for the State’s failure to fulfill its legal obligations,” said Sarah Brannon, Director of Project Vote’s Government Agency Voter Registration Program.”  [more at Demos]

This, of course, will not please the “election integrity” crowd who will assert that voting is a sort of privilege, a reward for being a “taxpayer” – as if members of minority groups, and those who need social services aren’t “real” taxpayers.  They will, no doubt, continue to whine that their lack of success in some elections can’t possibly be because they lack candidates who appeal to a majority, ergo it must be because the “other side” cheated in some conspiratorial way.  In short, any election they don’t win must necessarily be fraudulent.

No, a “fraudulent” election is one in which there is ample evidence of voter suppression, indications that minority community members were sent misleading and downright inaccurate information, activities such as those of the infamous Nathan Sproul, sweeping voter roll purges, and such suppressive legislation as photo IDs which are difficult for rural, elderly, and non-white voters to access.

Here’s hoping the Federal District Court will take a more constructive view of the issues raised in this case, and will direct that more eligible individuals will be encouraged to participate in Nevada elections.

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Filed under elections, Nevada news, Nevada politics, Vote Suppression, Voting

ALEC and Nevada GOP launch vote suppression bills

vote suppression

It isn’t quite true to say that vote suppression bills are “a solution in search of a problem,” because the “problem” as seen by ALEC and associated Republicans is that too many people are voting, thus placing a permanent GOP majority in doubt.  Here’s a portion of AB 266, the perfectly predictable photo ID bill:

“Section 2 sets forth the acceptable forms of proof of identity which are: (1) certain government-issued documents or identity cards that show a recognizable photograph of the person to whom the document or card is issued; (2) a voter identification card; or (3) certain documentation from an administrator of certain health care facilities that are licensed by the State.”

What’s the problem? Just show the election officials your driver’s license? That, according to the Brennan Center isn’t a solution to the real problem – encouraging more people to participate in our electoral politics.

“Approximately ten percent of voting-age Americans today do not have driver’s licenses or state-issued non-driver’s photo ID. Based on Americans’ moving patterns, many more do not have photo ID showing their current address. And getting ID costs substantial time and money. A would-be voter must pay substantial fees both for ID cards and the backup documents needed to get them-up to $100 for a driver’s license, up to $45 for a birth certificate, $97 for a passport, and over $200 for naturalization papers. The voter may also have to take several hours off of work and travel significant distances to visit government offices open only during select daytime hours. Finally, many identifying documents cannot be issued immediately, so potential voters must allow for processing and shipping, which may take from several weeks to an entire year.”

As the Brennan Center relates, there’s nothing “free” about the documentation needed to get voting photo identification cards, even though the card itself is supposed to be issued at no charge.  And, who are those most likely to be suppressed by this legislation?  No surprise here:

“The impact of ID requirements is even greater for the elderly, students, people with disabilities, low-income individuals, and people of color. Thirty-six percent of Georgians over 75 do not have a driver’s license. Fewer than 3 percent of Wisconsin students have driver’s licenses listing their current address. The same study found that African Americans have driver’s licenses at half the rate of whites, and the disparity increases among younger voters; only 22% of black men aged 18-24 had a valid driver’s license. Not only are minority voters less likely to possess photo ID, but they are also more likely than white voters to be selectively asked for ID at the polls. For example, in New York City, which has no ID requirement, a study showed that poll workers illegally asked one in six Asian Americans for ID at the polls, while white voters were permitted to vote without showing ID.”

Whose vote is in jeopardy?

Predictably that would be elderly people, students, people with disabilities, low income Americans, and people of color.  We’ve covered this territory before in terms of Nevada voting, especially in rural areas.  The geography of this state, and the fact that most of the population tends to live in just two counties, means that rural voters are also at risk.

It’s also no surprise that some of the same people who walked off the ALEC gang plank into the depths of vote suppression are the same who made the same march previously, see here.  AB 266 also brings back memories of Senator Roberson’s 2011 SB 373.

How does this fly in the face of American judicial principles? 

Here’s a reminder:

“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.” [DB]

Fancy Focus Group Terms Don’t Hide The Intent

Conservative Republicans are fond of using terms like “election integrity,” as if there was something amiss in our current system.  There isn’t.  The one question these advocates of vote suppression don’t want to answer is:  How many cases of voter impersonation fraud have been identified in this state?  As of August 2014, there were 31 cases of voter impersonation fraud in the entire country, and not one case was associated with a Nevada election. [WaPo]

But, but, but…sputter the advocates, “Photo ID will make people feel better about their elections.”  That’s false, too.  When researchers from Harvard and Columbia put this to a statistical test, the results didn’t support this contention:

“Because actual evidence of voter impersonation fraud is rare and difficult to come by if fraud is successful, reliance on public opinion as to the prevalence of fraud threatens to allow courts to evade the difficult task of balancing the actual constitutional risks involved. In this short Article we employ a unique survey to evaluate the causes and effects of public opinion regarding voter fraud. We find that perceptions of fraud have no relationship to an individual’s likelihood of turning out to vote. We also find that voters who were subject to stricter identification requirements believe fraud is just as widespread as do voters subject to less restrictive identification requirements.” (emphasis added)

Conclusions

Vote suppression bills are precisely that – legislation intended to make it more difficult for groups least likely to need or afford photo identification to vote in state and national elections.  They are promoted by associations like ALEC, which produces the model legislation, in order to secure a permanent GOP majority in elected bodies.  Let’s slip out on the tree limb and conjecture that if the elderly, students, the disabled, and the poor were voting for eliminating the minimum wage, enhancing corporate tax breaks, and terminating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau … the GOP would be demanding same day registration, and ALEC’s bill mill would be going full bore.

Vote suppression bills are unconstitutional. Discrimination should be the last thing found in polling stations. Further, to place the burden of proof on a “defendant” is counter to the very basic principles of American justice.

Vote suppression bills serve no one except corporate interests, as the Harvard/Columbia research reports – they don’t even make people feel any better.

AB 266, and its companions SB 169, and AB 253 should find their way to the bottom of some committee file cabinet – and not their way to the Governor’s desk.

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Turning Out, Tuning In, and other Voting Matters

Voter TurnoutNot to be missed: This editorial offering from Cory Farley in the Reno Gazette Journal.   Yes, voters have been operating on auto-pilot.  And there’s that common refrain — elected officials are venal, banal, untrustworthy, ineffective, and analogous with hundreds of varieties of planktonic and filamentous pond algae, BUT I’m going to vote for my version anyway.

The range of voter turnout is interesting — we’ve never dropped below 31% nor have we gotten much higher than 65%. [Nevada 2012 turnout here (pdf)]  So, we can guess that no matter how crucial the election there will be 35% of those eligible to vote who will stay home.  A few will be ill, or otherwise unable to exercise their  rights, more are probably in the realm of extremely low information voters who don’t tend to participate.

There’s a bit of a message for Washoe County Democrats in the Secretary of State’s voting statistics, given that ‘inactive voters’ are among the count in this state.   As of February 2014 there were 95,217 registered Democrats in Washoe County, and 95,819 registered Republicans.  [NVsos pdf]  However, dipping into the Active Voters information we find 79,689 active voter Democrats in Washoe County and 83,766 active voter Republicans. [NVsos pdf] The most common form of “lost (inactive) voter” is the person who has changed residency.  Younger people, and some categories of working people (seasonal employment, lower income, etc.) are more likely to move than those settled in waiting for retirement.

So, what factors affect voter turnout?

(1) Electoral competitiveness:  The hotter the race (especially at the top of the ticket) the more likely there will be a higher turnout.

(2) The type of election:  Off year elections (mid terms) aren’t as favorable for turnout as Presidential year elections.  We knew this already.  However, one rather startling statistic to come from a study of of 340 mayoral elections in 144 U.S. cities from 1996-2012 is that the average turnout was a meager 25.8% — one election (1999) in Dallas, TX drew a not-so-whopping 5%.  [FVOrg]

(3) Voting requirements:  More people tend to vote if registration is convenient and accessible, and more tend to vote if the voting time is extended.  Further, early voting tends to add to the numbers of people who vote, as does the implementation of policies which call for an adequate number of conveniently located polling stations for all precincts.  Factors which reduce turnout are: Voter ID laws and other restrictions, lack of voting equipment, lack of voting sites, and other suppression tactics.

(4) Age and Income:  In the 2008 national election only 41% of those earning less than $15,000 per year voted, while 78% of those earning over $150,000 cast ballots.  Those 30 years of age and older are 15-20 points more likely to vote than their cohorts who are between the ages of 18 and 29. [FVorg]

(5) Location: Rural voters tend to have higher turnout rates than urban areas.  [DY]

The Turn Out Problems

There’s a tendency among punditry to comment only upon national elections, that’s really picking the low hanging fruit.  It’s always easier to pontificate in generalities and national elections are chock-a-block full of them.  However, most governmental decisions which have a direct impact on our ordinary lives are made by state legislatures, city councils, county commissions, and locally elected officials.

Our state legislatures will determine the tax structure of our communities.  There’s no standard national property tax, and whatever we do for our local schools will have precious little to do with the Department of Education — it’ll be based on the decisions of our state legislature and the local school boards.

Our law enforcement policies will be determined by local officials.  The Department of Justice rarely looks into local affairs, and then only if a constitutional question arises or there is an overlap in jurisdictions.  What is and is not declared criminal behavior is determined at the state level.  What will and will not be funded is determined at the state and local levels.

Zoning restrictions, public health codes, fire codes, and economic development projects are a function of state and local government.  While there may be federal minimum requirements underpinning some of these elements, the enforcement and implementation is accomplished at the local level.

In short, voting matters more in state and local elections.  We may, indeed, have the wrong end of the dog.*  The ‘big’ informational campaigns are nationally funded and highly generalized, while it’s the local election which will have the greatest impact on specific  decisions about zoning, law enforcement, and school district policies.  The national elections seem to suck the money, and the air, out of local elections, which are more significantly related to our everyday activities.

Likewise, local and often state party leadership tends to focus on the Big Ones — as well they should, however the level of effort should be improved in terms of local and state elections.  Not only are local and state officials the ‘farm team’ for national offices, but they are the races with the most immediate effect on most people’s lives. So, when did we last hear of a really big “get out the vote” effort in a mayoral race?  A race for a county commission?…

*For more information on the drop off rate, see EAC Chapter 7 (pdf)

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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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Position Foot, Aim and Fire: Voting Proposals in Nevada

Shoot in FootLest we get lulled into thinking that voter suppression is something that might never happen in Nevada — caveat emptor, we’ve been over this territory before.   Even the Nevada Secretary of State got into the act last season. [DB]  And, make no mistake — curtailing access to the polls is voter suppression.  It is not “protecting” the vote. It is not “insuring the integrity of elections.”  It is not about “making every vote count.”  It IS about systematically restricting voting to those demographics which will likely produce the desired result for the powers that be in the Republican Party.

The voter identification laws, and the legislation introduced around the country ( 2011 Nevada), are specifically targeted at members of ethnic minority communities, young people, and the elderly. [Brennan Center] [Politico] [Moyers]  How do we know this? They’ve said so.

It’s also one of the dumbest ideas the Nevada Republican Party has had to date.

“We advocate proof of U.S. citizenship and residency at the time of voter registration.

We support legislation requiring authentic government issued photo identification at the time of voting.

We do not support same day voter registration.” [2012 Platform]

And where does one get a state issued photo ID?  Oh, “easy…just go to the DMV office in your neighborhood.”  Here are the neighborhoods served by local DMV offices —

Nevada DMV officesSo, it’s not all that easy for voters not indicated by the pin heads on the map — voters in Owyhee, Austin, Wells, Wendover, Battle Mountain, Eureka, and other small rural communities in the state.  Why would making Photo ID’s at the polls a problem for Republicans?  Look at Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District:

Active Voters – Democrats 111,203; Republicans 144,046.  [NVSoSpdf] The district covers 56,320.9 square miles. [NVleg pdf] District 2 has a population “density” of 12.0/mile.

Nevada Congressional Districts 2012Notice something when the DMV and the Congressional District maps are compared?  Those DMV offices are located in the populated areas of Washoe, Douglas, Elko, and Lyon counties — but they are sparse when moving into the hinterlands.  Where are the GOP votes assured? The hinterlands.

Humboldt County, with 1,400 registered Democrats and 3,252 registered Republicans has one DMV office, located in Winnemucca.  Elko County with 3,508 registered Democrats and 9,929 registered Republicans has one DMV office, located in Elko — none in Wells, Wendover, or Owyhee. Eureka County with 121 Democrats and 629 Republicans has no DMV office. Lander County with 603 Democrats and 1,557 Republicans has no DMV office. Pershing County with 656 Democrats and 1,068 Republicans has no DMV office.

It doesn’t take an advanced degree in logic and rhetoric to figure out that the portion of the state in which the citizens  most likely to be highly inconvenienced by voter ID requirements is a Republican stronghold.

Now, if as the research indicates, elderly voters are more likely to be restricted by new voting ID requirements, where might these elderly voters be located?

The median age of persons in Congressional District 4 is 34.8 years, and the median age of the population in Congressional District 1 is 35.7 years.  The median age of persons in Congressional District 3 is 37.4 years and the median age of those in Congressional District 2 is 38.8 years. [Census]  By all means — suppress the elderly vote in the two Congressional Districts in which there are incumbent  Republican Representatives?

In the “interest” of serving some higher, and completely absurd, cause of protecting elections from voter impersonation fraud, of which we have Zero prosecutable examples of late — the Nevada Republicans seem perfectly willing to aim carefully and shoot themselves in their own electoral feet.   If I didn’t believe that the right to vote is the most central in any system which calls itself a democracy — I’d wish them well??

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