Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller ruled Wednesday that voters whose registrations were on time, but incomplete or incorrect, may cast regular ballots after correcting their applications.
The legal interpretation was a response to a letter from Nevada Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Lowden, who argued that voter registrations that were not complete by the deadline should disqualify those people from voting.
Miller cited the statute that allows would-be voters 15 days to correct missing or bad information in their registrations, writing, “Nevada law provides the manner in which an … applicant may update or correct the voter information, and may do so without losing his right to vote.”
At issue are people who submitted registrations before the mail-in deadline of Oct. 4 but left out or flubbed crucial information such as a birth date, signature or address.
Under Nevada law, when registrations are incomplete, county registrars send letters to the would-be voters asking them to supply the needed information, and they have 15 days to do so. For incomplete registrations filed near the deadline, some follow-up letters didn’t go out until last week, meaning the 15-day grace period has not yet expired for some people.
When such applicants have showed up at the polls since early voting got under way, registrars have allowed them to complete their registrations on the spot, then go and vote.
The registrars said they were following their standard procedure from past elections for people whose registrations are kept on an internal list known as “fatal pends.”
Lowden, in a letter sent Monday, had argued that such registrations violated the deadline established in statute. But Miller disagreed, finding that the deadline did not supersede the 15-day requirement.
A coalition of civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, also disagreed with Lowden and lauded Miller’s interpretation in a letter issued Wednesday.
“It’s clear that folks who intend to register cannot be voided until they are given notice and an opportunity to correct the registration,” said Lee Rowland, an attorney with the Nevada ACLU. “It’s obviously perfectly appropriate to allow those individuals still in that notice period to correct their registration at the polls provided there’s no indication fraud is occurring, and in this instance there is none.”
Lowden said Wednesday the GOP was still weighing whether to try to pursue the matter further, perhaps in court. She noted that the list of registered voters is a matter of public record, but the list of “fatal pends” is kept internally by registrars, meaning outside observers can’t act as watchdogs.
“Because of our poll watching, we were very surprised to see people emerging from nowhere and being permitted to vote without their names being on any list,” she said. “That’s concerning to us. We should have a right to know who’s voting.”
Lowden noted that the people in question might be Republicans, Democrats or independents. She said it wasn’t a partisan issue.
“It’s about the integrity of the vote. It’s about assuring all Nevadans that their registration and their vote counts, and we don’t have people out there voting who shouldn’t be voting.”
Contact reporter Molly Ball at mball @reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919.