Whether it’s intentional or not, it’s clear the net effect of Sharron Angle’s life is to make the lives of others more difficult.
Returning to the Nevada political scene for the first time since losing the 2010 U.S. Senate race to Harry Reid, Angle has authored two initiatives to amend the state constitution. The first would outlaw government-run health insurance exchanges in Nevada, while the other would require a government-issued photo ID in order to vote.
The Silver State Health Insurance Exchange — which allows Nevada residents to shop for health insurance online under the federal Affordable Care Act — was created in 2011 on the recommendation of Gov. Brian Sandoval. The governor wanted to have a greater degree of state control over the exchange, rather than force Nevada residents to rely on the federal health insurance exchange. And the Legislature agreed: When the exchange was created, there was not a single dissenting vote in Carson City.
But Angle says no. It probably shouldn’t surprise anyone; she was often the lone dissenting vote while serving in the Assembly, a formulation known as “41 to Angle.”
Nevada’s exchange has certainly been plagued by problems, just as the federal exchange has. But Angle’s proposed amendment wouldn’t fix that. It would simply require Nevada residents to shop the federal exchange and deny Nevada officials the ability to have local control, with locals accountable for fixing problems. It would frustrate a state policy that brought together Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives.
Angle’s other proposal would require voters to show a government-issued ID before casting a ballot, and require the state to issue IDs for free to those who don’t have one now. Ostensibly, this is being done to combat voter fraud, although we know that voting-in-the-name-of-another is so rare as to be virtually non-existent. (In 2012, a Republican woman — irked that she hadn’t been asked to show ID at her polling place —tried to cast a second vote to demonstrate the system’s flaws. She was caught, arrested and later pleaded guilty and paid a $2,500 fine.)
Inevitably, voter ID laws lead to disenfranchisement of some voters. But if Angle was really concerned about the issue, she should have backed Secretary of State Ross Miller in 2013, when he championed a bill that would have attached DMV photos to voter registration records. That would have allowed poll workers to compare your on-file photo with your face when you showed up to vote. Best of all, those without ID could have been photographed at the polls and allowed to cast a vote. Miller’s plan combined photo verification with a lack of disenfranchisement. (Democrats showed little interest in the bill, saying it was a solution in search of a problem.)
Angle’s plan? More inconvenience for more people, and maybe a little voter suppression thrown in.
It’s no surprise, really. When Angle ran against Reid, she recommended rape victims make that “lemon situation into lemonade.” She questioned the need for insurance mandates to cover autism (using air quotes around the word). And she once suggested in a magazine interview that alcohol be treated like marijuana, that is, a controlled substance prohibited to the public.
But Angle’s initiatives aren’t only designed to vex; they’re dog-whistle issues to drive conservative turnout. Currently, with moderate Republican Sandoval facing no real Democratic opposition, and with no U.S. Senate or presidential election to drive voters to the polls, there’s little to motivate the right. But landing these initiatives on the ballot would not only attract conservative voters this year, but also in 2016, when Angle’s old nemesis Reid is back up for re-election.
These aren’t done deals, yet. Angle has to get nearly 102,000 valid signatures by June 17 in order to qualify the measures, and they have to survive legal scrutiny. (She’s been trying unsuccessfully to get a property tax limitation initiative before voters for years.) And maybe Angle even dreams of the unthinkable: Riding the wave of these initiatives back into public life, something she’s been chasing off and on since 2006.
Then she’d really be in a position to make our lives more difficult.
Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist and author of the blog SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 702-387-5276 or firstname.lastname@example.org.