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COMMENTARY: Automatic voter registration is safe and secure

Sometimes, doing things the way they’ve always been done is good enough. But when it comes to registering people to vote, Nevada can do better than handwritten paper forms. Moving to an automated system under Question 5 would modernize the process and make it more efficient, more secure and more convenient for every eligible Nevadan.

We can no longer afford to leave this important duty up to volunteers with clipboards. Between messy handwriting, lost or misplaced forms and the potential for data entry errors, the old system just doesn’t cut it. We can do better.

That’s why I’m voting yes on Question 5 — automatic voter registration — in this election. It’s a cost-effective and commonsense way to make our voter rolls more accurate and secure, while also making registration more convenient for eligible citizens.

Under Nevada’s existing system, thousands of voter registration forms have been illegally altered, thrown away or duplicated. I was involved in the investigation into ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which pleaded guilty in 2011 to paying Nevada voters for manipulating the current paper-based registration system, a felony.

ACORN’s scheme resulted in more than 28,000 duplicate registrations and nearly 19,000 bogus names in Nevada alone. Arguably worse, many voiceless victims of this corruption in Nevada believed they were registered to vote and didn’t find out until Election Day that their registrations were never completed.

We can do better. We have the technology.

Under automatic voter registration, when eligible voters apply for a new driver’s license or state identification card, or change their address on their current license or ID, they would be automatically registered to vote as well — but only if they’re eligible.

In some ways, not much would change. The initiative specifically preserves our strong eligibility requirements for voting and still requires a signature attesting the individual meets the qualifications for registration. But it adds additional layers of security.

Trained staff at the Department of Motor Vehicles would review the multiple forms of identification, such as proof of address and citizenship, required to get a license or ID. Then an automated system would screen for eligibility and send only the registration information of eligible voters on to the secretary of state’s office. Next, their information will be verified against local county records, the state’s voter registration database and Social Security Administration records. Not until these layers of verification confirm that the person is eligible to vote, will they be registered in Nevada.

Opponents of this measure say Question 5 would allow noncitizens to register to vote. With all these layers of verification, they couldn’t be more wrong.

Fourteen states have already passed forms of automatic voter registration, so we have track record of success and a clear path to follow to establish a system that makes the voter rolls more accurate, secure, and accessible to eligible voters.

When it comes to something as important as our election system, we should rely on technology proven to be reliable. Question 5, on the ballot this year, is simply a better way.

Matthew Griffin is a former Nevada deputy secretary of state for elections.

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