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Sandoval’s actions on IP1 will set tone for the rest of session

Updated March 14, 2017 - 6:03 pm

CARSON CITY — A Republican governor vetoing a bill unanimously opposed by Republican legislators should be a formality, not a hold-your-breathe moment of suspense.

It speaks volumes to the confidence conservatives have — or don’t have — in Gov. Brian Sandoval that his veto of Initiative Petition 1, which will arrive on his desk this week after passing on party-line votes in each house, isn’t inevitable. IP1 would automatically register to vote anyone obtaining or renewing a driver’s license or ID card at the DMV.

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, and Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, described the problems with IP1 on the Senate floor Monday. The biggest are that it would automatically register legal immigrants to vote and force people to opt-out of registering, instead of opting in. Kieckhefer noted that Nevada has over 21,000 legal immigrants with driver’s licenses who DMV would register to vote automatically under IP1. The Secretary of State does review registrations but, by statute, cannot check for citizenship. Unless immigrants pay more attention at the DMV than most citizens, IP1 would lead to thousands of non-citizens going on the voter rolls. They could then vote without proving citizenship or showing photo ID.

“He’s got to veto this,” said one lobbyist. “This is the first thing to hit his desk that conservatives oppose. That’s a big one.”

An IP1 veto, which would put the initiative on the ballot in 2018, should be a no-brainer. Instead, we’re left trying to discern Sandoval’s intentions from statements crafted so carefully they’d do the Federal Reserve proud.

“The Governor, among other issues, does have concerns with requiring individuals to ‘opt out’ of compulsory voter registration and the unintended consequence of possibly registering individuals who are otherwise ineligible to vote,” said Mari St. Martin, Sandoval’s spokeswoman.

That points to a veto, but it’s hardly definitive. That’s why Sandoval’s actions on IP1 will be so telling.

For his part, Sen. Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, is confident Sandoval will veto IP1, and that the governor is willing to give his veto pen a workout.

“That’s just veto-bait,” said Roberson of a Democrat bill to overturn collective bargaining reforms passed in 2015. “The governor’s been very clear. He’s not going to entertain the repeal of the important reforms we passed last session.”

Talk is cheap. Vetoes aren’t. Sandoval’s actions on IP1 will set the tone for the rest of session.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Nevada section each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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