Extending registration until the Friday before an election would allow more people to avoid an artificial deadline and exercise their right to vote, Secretary of State Ross Miller testified Thursday.
Miller spoke in favor of Assembly Bill 440, a proposed bill that would allow people to register through Nevada’s early voting period and immediately cast a ballot.
Under existing law, registration closes three weeks before the primary or general election.
“If someone does get interested in the election ... they would be able to register to vote in the early period and vote in that early voting period,” said Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, a backer of the bill.
In the previous election, more than 7,000 people registered after the cutoff date and were ineligible to vote, Miller said.
Critics argued the change would invite fraud and said Nevada provides ample opportunity for people to register — by mail, online or in person.
Miller said county clerks are often flooded with mail-in registrations before an election, a scenario he described as a “huge pig in the snake’s belly.”
State Sen. Pat Spearman, D-North Las Vegas, a military veteran, said the bill could make it easier for armed forces personnel who often miss deadlines because of deployments and changing assignments.
But Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, said if the bill expanded the deadline just for military personnel, “I could definitely support that concept.”
“But I don’t think that’s where we’re going,” he said.
Concerns were raised that someone could register during early voting and cast a ballot then vote again on Election Day at their regular polling location.
Scott Gilles, secretary of state elections deputy, said his office was also considering a potential amendment that would allow county clerks to issue sample ballots electronically if voters “opt in” for delivery by email.
Washoe County officials say printing and mailing paper sample ballots cost the county $118,000 last year.
The committee also heard testimony on AB441, which would authorize counties to set up polling centers on Election Day. The concept is similar to early voting, when voters can to go to any polling location and cast a ballot. Under existing law, voters on Election Day must go to their designated precinct location.
“It’s permissive. No county has to do it,” Ohrenschall said, adding it would help voters who show up at the wrong location on Election Day.
However, during early voting, county-wide registration records are available on computers at each voting cite. On Election Day, poll workers use paper rosters to match signatures. There are not enough computers to place one at each polling site.
Officials conceded someone could vote at a polling center then cast another ballot at their precinct because the verification systems aren’t linked.
Clark County Registrar Larry Lomax, however, said tallies are audited and it would become immediately apparent if someone voted twice.
Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover agreed.
“It’s got some danger in it but I think the clerks and registrars can work that out,” he said.
No action was taken on either bill.