Pass campaign finance reform now

Dean Heller did a fine job during his term as our secretary of state, and he left some pretty big shoes to fill when he ran for Congress. Thankfully, Democrat Ross Miller has shown himself to be a capable occupant of that office, and his landslide win in the last election is testimony to this. Hey, I voted for him.

I am still a conservative, and Miller is not, so I approached his campaign finance reforms with a cocked eyebrow. Our campaign finance laws here in Nevada do need some serious reform and a double shot of transparency, but without the partisan bent that plagues our political discourse in this country. I am happy to report that Miller’s legislation accomplishes this. Our current system heavily favors entrenched incumbents, and in the past this is why many of them haven’t supported these types of reforms.

This is not Miller’s first time trying to advance this legislation. Twice before he has presented it, and twice before it has been swept under the rug by the career politicians in Carson City. Thankfully due to the term limits that U.S. Sen. Harry Reid would like to see abolished, much of the old guard isn’t there anymore to prevent these reforms from passing.

AB 82 would require candidates to file their campaign contribution and expense reports online and categorize them into a searchable database. This is a badly needed improvement that will aid in making it possible for Nevada voters to make more informed decisions. It’s important for the voters to be able to know who is funding these politicians, and this will go a long way toward making that happen.

AB 81 would change the campaign expense reporting deadline to four days ahead of the start of early voting with an update due the Friday prior to the primary and general election days. Currently, reports are filed seven days before the primary and general elections, which is no longer feasible. Nevada is an early voting state, and by the time that date rolls around, thousands of Nevadans have already voted early. Nevada voters deserve to have this information available to them prior to making their decisions, and this law will ensure it’s available.

This law would also provide for a new online voter registration system to replace our current system of paper registration cards. People have questioned whether this is the most secure way to collect voter registration data, but anything is more secure than our current system of mailing in a paper application. They are hard to track, cumbersome, and the turnaround can be a bit slow. I really don’t think the security concerns are warranted. We manage our money online, we can register voters the same way. In addition to online registration, the bills would also increase fines for violation of our voter registration laws.

Candidate filing fees would also be increased from $500 to $3,000 for U.S. Senate candidates and from $100 to $300 for legislative candidates. There has been some resistance to these increases, but let’s be honest here: It costs thousands of dollars to run for office, and if a candidate isn’t serious enough to open a campaign account and do a little bit of fundraising to scrape up $300, then they probably shouldn’t be running for office. Politics is a serious business, and an increase in fees may help to weed out those who choose to run because they want to send some sort of obtuse message or make a statement.

It is time we bring our campaign finance laws into this century. Nevada deserves to have a campaign process that is open, accessible and user friendly for the voters. It’s time AB 81 and AB 82 are written into law.