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Support withers for voter registration bill

Sandra Chereb
The Associated Press

A bill to extend Nevada’s voter registration period ran into trouble on Tuesday when Democrats on a Senate panel questioned why it was needed.

Sen. Pat Spearman, D-North Las Vegas, pleaded with her Democratic colleagues to pass Assembly Bill 440 and send the debate to the Senate floor.

When that seemed futile, she delayed a vote until Thursday — a day before the deadline for committee passage — to let supporters try to sway Democratic skeptics Sens. Mark Manendo of Las Vegas and Kelvin Atkinson of North Las Vegas.

The bill passed the Assembly in April with a 25-16 vote.

The bill would extend voter registration to the Friday before a primary or general election. People who register in person during the early voting period would be allowed to cast a ballot immediately.

Under existing law, registration closes three weeks before an election.

Spearman, a military veteran and chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections, said the bill would help military personnel participate in the election process.

“I think anything we can do to help our men and women in the armed forces, I think that’s a good thing,” she said.

Critics countered that the change would invite fraud and said Nevada provides ample opportunity to register — by mail, online or in person.

Secretary of State Ross Miller, testifying earlier in support of the bill, said more than 7,000 people registered after the cutoff and were ineligible to vote in the 2012 presidential election.

In a passionate attempt to garner support, Spearman said she couldn’t speak to voter apathy but understands the challenges of being in the military and being deployed on short notice.

“I’ve been overseas and thought I was coming home in October. Then was told no, you’re going home in May,” she said. “I’ve lived it so I can talk it.”

If the bill helps one person vote, it’s worth it, she said.