Mixed reactions to Nevada voter photo proposal
March 14, 2013
CARSON CITY, Nev. — Secretary of State Ross Miller's plan to digitize Nevada polling records and add voter photos to the database was met with mixed reaction Thursday from county registrars who applauded the modernization effort but were concerned it would still allow people to cast a ballot if photos and signatures didn't match.
Miller, in presenting SB63 to the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections, said the bill was "an opportunity for state, not the voter, to ensure that every eligible voter is able to exercise their right."
He added no voter be required to "produce a piece of plastic" before casting a ballot.
No action was taken by the committee. Passage appeared unlikely given the cool reception it received from Democrats and Republicans' preference for voter identification cards.
Under the plan, photos from Department of Motor Vehicle records would be uploaded to the election system, giving poll workers the ability to visually verify a voter. Currently, signatures kept in paper-bound books are compared with signatures of voters who sign in before they are given ballots.
For people who don't have a DMV-issued identification, poll workers would be on hand to take a voter's photo.
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Miller stressed that even those who lack a DMV identification card and refuse to have their photo taken would not be denied the right to vote "as long as they sign a written affirmation under penalty of perjury confirming that he or she is the registered voter they claim to be."
That provision raised concerns from county election officials, including Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover and Clark County Voter Registrar Larry Lomax.
"Our concern is someone could come in and if their picture doesn't match, they could sign an affidavit … and go in and vote," Glover said.
Under existing law, workers can ask for identification if a signature doesn't appear to jibe with what's on file. If they have no ID, they are allowed to cast a provision ballot, which is good for federal races only, and then given time to produce identification.
Glover said the concern is that someone could pose as a person who hasn't voted yet, sign an affidavit, and hop around the state casting ballots.
Lomax, who oversees the state's largest county with more than 800,000 active voters, agreed, saying, "Currently this bill states, if a poll worker doesn't believe it's the same person … we're to allow that person to vote. That makes no sense."
Miller defended the provision, arguing such scenarios as described by Glover would trigger a criminal investigation by the state's Election Integrity Task Force.
Janine Hansen, a frequent Independent American Party candidate, echoed the criticism. "I think this could actually increase voter fraud, instead of decrease it," she said.
The bill was also opposed by Richard Boulward, with the Las Vegas Chapter of the NAACP, who said there was scant evidence of voter fraud in Nevada and that photo requirements would increase disenfranchisement and suppression of votes in minority communities.
Committee chairwoman Sen. Patricia Spearman, D-North Las Vegas, asked Miller to look into how the Social Security Administration and Transportation Safety Administration handle identification issues.
Republicans on the panel, however, asked whether it wouldn't be cheaper for the DMV to issue voter ID cards.
Questions were raised about the cost to implement the system.
Miller said an earlier cost projection of $800,000 was "probably unrealistically low." Clark County estimates it would cost about $3.2 million.