CARSON CITY — A legislative panel Thursday voted to support a measure that could significantly swell the ranks of registered voters ahead of the 2018 election cycle.
The Automatic Voter Registration Initiative would amend Nevada law to require the Department of Motor Vehicles to transmit information to the secretary of state’s office to register people who obtain, renew or change an address on a driver’s license or identification card.
The vote in the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee was 7-4, with the four Republican members voting no.
Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, called the measure a “Big Brother” attempt to force people to participate in the political process. Voting is important, but so is freedom, he said.
Assemblywoman Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod, D-Las Vegas, supported the measure, saying the DMV process could help update and keep current voter registration records.
Under the measure, people could opt out of the program. Currently, people can register to vote at the DMV, but they have to “opt in.” Tens of thousands of newly registered voters are expected if the process is implemented.
The vote by the committee is one step in a long process to get the proposal approved. Full votes will be required in both the Assembly and Senate. If it passes the Legislature, it will require Gov. Brian Sandoval’s signature.
The measure, called Initiative Petition 1, is the result of a successful effort last year to collect enough signatures to put the proposal in front of the Legislature. Lawmakers have 40 days to approve the proposal, or it will go to the voters in the 2018 general election.
The Nevada initiative is modeled after an Oregon law. Since it took effect in January 2016, the state has registered more than 225,000 residents to vote.
The Assembly panel took testimony on the measure Tuesday. There was no testimony in opposition. Several military veterans testified in support.
The petition contains language to ensure only eligible individuals are registered to vote.
There are concerns nationally and in Nevada about voter security, however. The concerns relate both to voter registration and voter fraud. Several measures, including proposals for voter ID, have been introduced this session.
Nevada election officials say they saw no evidence of voter fraud in the 2016 general election but cited issues with third-party groups who registered voters. Assembly Bill 45 has been introduced to address those issues.
IP1 would take effect upon approval for the purpose of adopting rules and on Jan. 1, 2018, for the registration process to start.