Miller calls for campaign, election reform | NevadaAppeal.com

Miller calls for campaign, election reform

Legislation to modernize and strengthen of Nevada’s campaign reporting and voter registration laws was proposed Tuesday by Secretary of State Ross Miller.

His proposals include mandatory electronic filing of all campaign reports, online voter registration, increases to filing fees for different offices and increased penalties for fraud and election tampering.

To clear up the ongoing problem of candidates and voters not knowing where reports for different offices are filed, Miller argued all those reports and declarations of elections, even those for municipal offices, should be filed with the Secretary of State’s office.

The plan includes increasing the number of campaign finance reports from three to four and timing them so they appear four days before each primary and each general election to tell voters who is contributing how much to each candidate. Those reports also would have to provide voters with more information about each contribution and expenditure.

Miller said every campaign ad worth $100 or more should have to state who paid for it and give an address, phone number and e-mail for that individual or group.

He said the online voter registration pilot program in Clark County was a success and should be implemented statewide.

Miller said Nevada has repeatedly gotten a failing grade for its weak campaign reporting laws and, while his proposals wouldn’t get the state an “A,” “we’d at least get a passing grade.”

Miller called for big increases in campaign filing fees, saying, “As you know, practically everyone in the state of Nevada filed for U.S. Senate last time.” There were more than a dozen candidates in that race.

The fee for a U.S. Senate race would rise from $500 to $3,000 and the fee for governor and congressman from $300 to $2,000. Filing for a district judgeship would cost $1,500 instead of the current $200.

He said candidates who can’t afford the fees could avoid them

by collecting signatures from supporters.

Miller also called for much tougher penalties for voter fraud or attempting to illegally influence an election.

“If somebody’s going to come to this state and try rig a presidential election, that’s a pretty serious offense,” he said.

Voter registrars Larry Lomax of Clark County and Alan Glover of Carson City both said they support online reporting and voter registration. Glover also backed centralizing all filings with the Secretary of State.

“The biggest confusion we have is where to file,” Glover said noting that his office gets reports that should go to Miller’s office and visa versa every election cycle.

But Independent American Party officials argued the increased fees and fines in the proposals would damage their rights to participate in the process.

“I would be a virtual felon,” said Janine Hansen who claimed she was never informed flaws in her contribution reports violate existing law until she was hit with $15,000 in fines.

She said Assembly Bill 81 and Assembly Bill 82, would “secure the advantages for the rich, powerful incumbents and candidates anointed by the powers that be.”

Rebecca Gasca of the American Civil Liberties Union also objected to the fines saying penalties for false statements in a declaration of candidacy should only apply if the false statement was “about something material.”

She raised a series of other issues as well arguing parts of Miller’s proposals could violate First Amendment rights.

However, she said ACLU supports online voter registration as increasing access to the process and that she would work with the committee on her other issues.

Miller told the committee it’s time for Nevada to get serious about campaign reform to increase voter confidence in the process.