Speaking to a Hispanic group, secretary of state candidate Barbara Cegavske on Wednesday defended proposed voter ID laws that would require Nevadans to present photo identification at the ballot box.
Cegavske, an outgoing state senator who backed such bills in the Nevada Legislature, said voter ID laws ensure the integrity of elections and aren’t aimed at disenfranchising voters, including those without driver’s licenses.
“I’ve always been in favor of identification,” Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, said in response to an audience question. “I have no problem showing my identification when I go to vote.”
Cegavske said that if elected in November she would consider introducing a voter ID bill during the 2015 legislative session if no lawmaker proposes a similar bill. Such measures have repeatedly failed to pass the Democrat-controlled Assembly and Senate, however.
“We need to have something that everyone feels secure about,” Cegavske said after speaking to about 40 people attending a breakfast for Hispanics in Politics, an influential Latino community group. “I don’t want to disenfranchise anybody, but I don’t know anybody who doesn’t have identification.”
Cegavske said that even if people don’t drive they usually have other ID they use to get Social Security checks or food stamps or for other programs that require photo identification.
In 2013 Secretary of State Ross Miller, a Democrat, upset progressive groups by proposing an electronic poll book with voters’ photos. His proposal would have put the burden on the state and county elections departments to verify identification without the voter having to present a photo ID. It failed, however, mostly because of the cost, anywhere $787,200 to $3.2 million for Clark County alone, according to estimates.
Nevada voters are rarely caught trying to cheat the system. One woman, a registered Republican, was caught voting twice in the 2012 presidential election. She said she was trying to test the system.
In April, an illegal immigrant, Ortencia Segura, was arrested in California on two felony charges for allegedly using a false identity to register to vote and cast ballots in Nevada in 2008 and 2010.
Howard Watts, a field director for the progressive group PLAN challenged Cegavske on her support for voter ID, and on what she would do about voter intimidation.
“We hear anecdotes about people pressured by employers, people harassed” and being told to vote “a certain way,” Watts said. “How are you going to use the task force to fight voter intimidation?”
Cegavske said she often hears about voter intimidation and believes better public education and training can help people deal with the problem, including better instructions on how to file a formal complaint.
“The main thing is training,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know who to call or who to talk to if they’ve been intimidated.”
Asked by Watts what her priority would be if elected, spending on a voter ID program or on modernizing aging election machines, Cegavske said, “They’re both very important.”
She said the secretary of state’s office can’t afford new machines.
“It’s finding the funds to make sure that happens” that’s the challenge, Cegavske said.
Carson City’s electronic voting machines are in good shape and they have extra replacements, she said. Larger counties such as Washoe and Clark would likely need a costly modernization program, however, she added.
After her speech, Cegavske said she would place the top priority on modernizing machines over a voter ID law.
“I think the most important thing is the equipment,” she said.
Cegavske will face Nevada Treasurer Kate Marshall, a Democrat, in the Nov. 4 general election.
Contact Laura Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2919. Find her on Twitter: @lmyerslvrj.