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VICTOR JOECKS: Nevada Democrat wants to put polling places in prisons

A Nevada Democrat has come up with a brand new way to be soft on crime.

State Sen. Melanie Scheible is sponsoring Senate Bill 168. It would require officials to open polling places in city and county jails. Those polling places would be “exclusively” for prisoners who are registered voters. They would offer same-day voter registration, too.

No, this isn’t a headline from the Babylon Bee. I promise. I read and reread the bill, because it reads like a conservative parody of liberal priorities.

The absurdity continues. In some cases, prisoners from one county are housed in another county. The bill dictates the “county clerk shall coordinate” with the jail’s administrator to set up a polling place for those prisoners. If you’re traveling on Election Day, you need to return your mail ballot. But if you’re imprisoned for committing a crime, Democrats will bring the ballot box to you.

It’s so absurd that, for most people, simply hearing the bill’s particulars is a compelling reason to reject it.

In cases like this, mockery is a reflexive summation of the logical reasons this is a terrible idea. Voting is a foundational part of civil society. Citizens use ballots, not bullets, to determine who wields political power. People in jail, however, have broken their covenant with society by committing crimes. Society has no obligation to bring a polling place to them.

There’s a practical downside as well. Most Nevadans want less crime. A key part of achieving that is punishing criminals. But criminals have a different set of incentives, because they’re in jail, being punished for crimes. It’s likely many will vote for soft-on-crime politicians. That may benefit them personally, but it hurts society more broadly.

The bill is an encapsulation of where the parties are on public safety. Lawmakers wrap election bills, even the good ones, in high-minded ideals. But the unmentioned truth is that almost no politician supports an election reform they think will lead to more votes for their opponents. Consider how upset the Democrats nationally were about Republican redistricting efforts over the past two years. That didn’t keep Nevada Democrats from ruthlessly redistricting to protect their legislative majorities and congressional delegation. Democrats have a supermajority in the Assembly despite winning fewer than 42 percent of the total votes cast in Assembly races.

If Democrats want to make it easier for more prisoners to vote, it’s because they believe prisoners are more likely to vote for them. Democrats spearheaded a 2019 bill reducing criminal penalties. I believe that bill contributed to a massive spike in crime, but it likely has high approval ratings among criminals. Little wonder Democrats want them casting ballots.

Because Gov. Joe Lombardo can veto it, Republicans should hope Democrats bring this bill up for a vote. It’d be great campaign material for them.

Lombardo and Republicans want to increase jail time for criminals. Democrats want criminals in jail to vote.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at noon with Kevin Wall on AM 670 KMZQ Right Talk. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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