Officials split over plan to let Nevadans register at polls
Legislators and county officials are split over Secretary of State Dean Heller’s plan to let voters register on Election Day.
Some officials fear the proposed law would invite fraud and cause extra expenses, while others think it would boost Nevada’s dismal voter turnout.
Less than 32 percent of Nevada’s eligible voters cast ballots in the November general election, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
In 2000, 70 percent of the state’s registered voters cast ballots in the presidential election, a high-water mark for Nevada. But only three states had worse turnouts than Nevada.
If Heller’s plan is accepted by the 2003 Legislature, Nevada would join six states that allow for Election Day registration. The six top the nation in voter turnout, national studies show.
“Anything that gets more voters out is a good idea,” Sen. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, told the a Reno newspaper.
Under current law, Nevadans must register 30 days before the election, allowing time for election officials to check identities and addresses.
“Major study after major study show that the average citizen makes a decision to vote 10 days before the election,” said Fred Lokken, a political science instructor at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno.
“In Nevada, that is already too late. We need to lift barriers. We need to make it easier to vote and be realistic about how and when voters make their decisions to vote,” Lokken added.
But some county election officials said such a law could hurt the integrity of the election process.
“This really opens up the process for voter fraud,” said Alan Glover, Carson City’s clerk-recorder. “When they would come in and register to vote on Election Day, how do we know they live where they say they live? After they vote, there is nothing that can be done about it.”
County officials also are worried about the extra expenses involved in Election Day registration. Extra help would be necessary to handle the registration.
County election officials are expected to take a stance on the proposal when they meet later this month.
“I suspect we will take a vote on it, and I suspect that the vote will be 17-0 against,” Glover said.
But Daniel Burk, Washoe County’s registrar of voters, said he favors the proposal because he thinks the fraud concerns are overstated.
“We really don’t have a problem with people who misrepresent themselves in order to vote in this state,” Burk said. “Our problem is that we don’t have enough people participating in the voting process.”