Caution issued to GOP not to intimidate voters
October 15, 2004
As polls open today for those who want to be among the first to vote in this year’s elections, the Secretary of State’s Office has cautioned the Republican Party not to try to use challenges to intimidate voters.
Early voting will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the clerk’s office in Carson City, at Roop and Musser streets, and at the Minden Inn in Douglas County. Douglas is also offering early voting at two satellite locations from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Topaz Ranch Estates Park Building and at the county administrative building in Stateline.
GOP Election Day Coordinator David O’Mara served notice to the state and clerks in an Oct. 2 letter the party intends to have poll watchers to challenge voters who they believe aren’t properly registered.
The letter to Secretary of State Dean Heller asked clarification on exactly how they could challenge voters during early voting. It specifically asked that the law requiring someone making a challenge be registered in the same “precinct or district” be interpreted to mean the same county. That would effectively allow O’Mara’s crew to challenge any voter at a given polling place.
Chief Deputy Secretary of State Renee Parker issued a letter to O’Mara saying that’s not their interpretation of Nevada law.
“We believe that only a registered voter who resides in the same precinct as the registered voter being challenged may lodge such a challenge,” she wrote, adding that the wording was “not intended to broaden the rights of persons to challenge voters to include any person registered in the county.”
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Parker also cautioned the party against indiscriminate challenges.
“This office is very concerned about any use of the election statutes in a manner that could result in the intimidation or discouragement of voters from going to the polls,” the letter says. “In this connection, any challenge brought against a voter must be supported by a good-faith believe on the challenger’s part that the person is not entitled to vote under the laws of the state.”
And she pointed out that, under state and federal law, no voter is subject to challenge merely because they moved to a different residence in the county, even if they moved to a different precinct.
O’Mara’s letter follows an attempt by Republican activist Dan Burdish to challenge more than 16,000 registered Democrats in Clark County. Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax rejected the blanket challenges on similar grounds, saying only someone in the same precinct could challenged an individual voter.
Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.