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Nevada officials slam same-day voter registration bill as costly

Updated March 7, 2019 - 10:32 am

CARSON CITY A proposal that would allow for same-day voter registration in Nevada and extend the state’s early voting period was met with hesitation from state and county officials, who said the bill would add significant costs and logistical difficulties to elections.

Senate Bill 123 would allow Nevadans to register to vote on Election Day and add two days to the current two-week early voting period, changing the final day from the Friday to the Sunday before Election Day.

Under current state law, the deadline to register to vote is the Thursday before early voting begins.

Nearly 11,000 Nevadans submitted voter registration forms after the deadline but before Election Day in 2018, state Sen. James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, said while presenting the bill to the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee on Wednesday afternoon. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have same-day registration, including neighboring Utah, Idaho and California.

“If passed, it would make it possible for more of our constituents to participate in our government by removing obstacles in front of them,” Ohrenschall said.

But state and local election officials from counties across Nevada said that implementing the proposed changes would be expensive and onerous.

If the bill were to pass, implementing the changes in time for the 2020 election would be “extremely difficult if not impossible,” said Wayne Thorley, deputy Nevada secretary of state in charge of elections.

Thorley said implementing the changes would take a minimum of two years and would be a “multimillion-dollar process.”

Joe Gloria, Clark County’s registrar of voters, said that same-day registration would require three additional workers at each polling site to process and verify the voters’ information, totaling 516 more workers on Election Day.

Those poll workers are not full-time county staff, Gloria noted.

Gloria proposed that those registering on Election Day be allowed to cast a full provisional ballot, which would need to be reviewed before being officially counted.

Eight of the 17 states with same-day registration allow voters to cast provisional ballots.

Ohrenschall said at the end of the hearing that he would consider an amendment to include the provisional ballots idea.

The committee took no action on the bill.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

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