CARSON CITY – Chances of Secretary of State Ross Miller winning support in the Legislature for a voter photo ID law look less than dim since the Democratic leaders of the state Senate and Assembly said they oppose his plan.
State Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, and Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, last week questioned how state government can afford spending $10 million to $20 million on a voter ID program when the state faces more pressing needs, such as education, health care and other programs.
Denis said there was scant evidence of organized voter fraud in the fall elections, so it makes no sense to implement the Miller plan.
"It’s a problem that doesn’t exist," he said.
"I could understand if fraud was a widespread problem. But we only had a Republican lady who tried to vote twice and got caught," Denis said. "The system worked."
"It’s not a priority," said Kirkpatrick, who noted she made her opposition known to Miller in a phone call.
Democrats hold an 11-10 majority in the state Senate and a 27-15 advantage in the Assembly, so if Democrats opposed the bill, it would die even with unanimous Republican support.
Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey of Reno said he favors at least looking at Miller’s proposal.
"The fact that the current system does not require any voter identifications rubs a lot of people the wrong way," said Hickey after Miller revealed his proposal.
On Nov. 2, Henderson resident Roxanne Rubin was arrested on allegations that she tried to vote twice in the same election.
The Republican National Committee also charged during the election that some people who used touch-screen voting machines found their votes were about to be cast for President Barack Obama when they touched Mitt Romney’s name. The RNC, however, did not allege that incorrect votes actually were recorded. Miller dismissed the committee’s complaint as "irresponsible," adding he received no evidence on which to open an investigation.
Nonetheless, Miller last week announced he would introduce the bill next year that calls for an ID plan similar to one rejected in Minnesota.
Under his plan, Department of Motor Vehicles’ photos of registered voters would be electronically transferred to county election departments. The photos also would be placed in poll books at voting places. Election workers then could determine whether the potential voter matched the photo. Now they compare the signatures of voters with the signatures they wrote when they first registered.
In addition, poll places would have cameras to take free photos of registered voters who don’t have a driver’s license or other ID.
Miller said he made his request for the bill not because of voter fraud in Nevada but because of the large number of residents who complained about voter fraud – whether it existed or not – during the election. He said the bill was one way to end their concern about voter fraud.
Gov. Brian Sandoval said he liked Miller’s idea but would have to see the details before he gave his support.
Miller is a Democrat, but it’s the Republicans around the country who have traditionally supported voter ID programs. They maintain IDs are necessary to prevent people from rigging elections. They note that people must show identification these days for buying cigarettes and liquor and even catching a plane.
Democrats, on the other hand, have complained that adding such a requirement would reduce the number of minorities who vote.
Although 30 states now have some form of voter ID laws, voting by minorities around the nation has risen in the past two presidential elections. In the November election, an estimated 71 percent of Hispanic registered voters and more than 90 percent of the black registered voters cast ballots for Democrat Barack Obama.
There has been speculation in Nevada that Miller’s plan would be popular with Republicans and help him win votes if he decides to run for attorney general in 2014.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at email@example.com or 775-687-3901.