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EDITORIAL: Nevada should enact voter photo ID law

You have to furnish photo identification to use a credit card at many businesses. You have to show photo identification to get on an airplane. Even if you have some gray hairs, you have to show photo ID to buy alcohol.

And in 17 states, you have to show photo identification to vote. Nevada isn’t one of them.

The 2015 Legislature should change that when it convenes Feb. 2. The Review-Journal’s ninth of 25 policy recommendations to lawmakers in 25 days is a voter photo identification law.

Voter photo ID laws are a hyperpartisan issue because of Democratic Party opposition. At least one chamber of the Nevada Legislature has been under Democratic Party control for 20 years, so voter photo ID bills couldn’t get so much as a committee hearing.

But voter identification laws have broad support among voters, who are overwhelmingly comfortable reaching into their wallets to prove their identity for business far less important than voting. A March 2014 Rasmussen Reports poll found 78 percent of Americans support showing identification before voting. A 2013 Marist/McClatchy poll found 83 percent of Americans — including 72 percent of Democrats, 83 percent of nonwhite adults and 84 percent of households earning less than $50,000 per year — support showing ID. A 2012 Washington Post poll found 74 percent of Americans favor of a photo ID requirement for voters.

The public doesn’t buy the argument that identification laws suppress turnout, or that election fraud simply doesn’t happen enough to justify photo ID requirements. They want common-sense security measures to protect the integrity of elections. And photo identification is largely settled law. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 upheld Indiana’s toughest-in-the-nation photo ID standard 6-3, with an opinion in favor written by liberal justice John Paul Stevens, who said such a requirement is not “excessively burdensome.”

The catch is that people who do not have photo identification can’t be made to pay for ID for the sole purpose of voting. The Department of Motor Vehicles would have to provide state identification (not driver’s licenses) free of charge. That’s a small burden on taxpayers to erect one more barrier to election fraud.

To prevent drawn-out legal challenges to the law, Nevada legislators should simply copy Indiana’s statute, or another that has cleared all judicial reviews.

Nevadans are used to showing photo ID. Lawmakers should make sure poll workers start asking for it.

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