David Kladney, a former Reno journalist and now an attorney, has been a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights since 2011. Italics reflect emphasis in his voice.
How did you get on the commission?
The makeup of the commission is no more than four people can be from one political party. The president of the United States gets four appointments. The minority leader and the speaker in the House each get an appointment, and the majority leader and minority leader in the Senate each get an appointment. I was appointed by Sen. Reid in 2011. So I’ve been sitting there for five, five and a half years.
What does the commission do?
What we do is we investigate subjects on civil rights. We don’t investigate cases. For instance, I think I spoke [at a Nevada Women’s Lobby meeting] about sexual assault in the military. We did a report on that. We’ve had a report on patient dumping—sending them out on buses. We’ve done a lot of reports. You can look on the website and see the list. We did a report on police use of force. It hasn’t been issued yet. I’m sure the report will come out and make recommendations [such as] what data needs to be collected in the future. One of the things we found out was that there wasn’t sufficient data that is kept by police departments throughout the country. For instance, there are about nine hundred and something, maybe close to a thousand, citizens shot to death every year by police officers. There’s 225, I think, police officers lost their lives in 2016 or 2015. More than a quarter of that thousand number were mentally disabled. So the question comes, are the officers prepared to handle those situations as best as they can be, and are the officers protected enough so that few of them will get injured, either, because it’s a dangerous job? Perhaps we can save lives on both sides of that equation. So those are the kind of things we looked at. We looked at religion and the accommodations that are supposed to be made to religious folks—where they can pray, where they shouldn’t. Like in college campuses, things like that. So we have quite a broad portfolio.
You made reference at the Women’s Lobby to “legislatures who are really pushing the envelope in trying not to register voters.” Voting’s under attack. Wasn’t this something that was supposed to be settled when the Voting Rights Act was passed? Keeping people from voting—who would have thought?
Well, it depends on which side of the coin you’re looking at it from. If you’re saying that you think there’s a lot of voter fraud and that people who are not supposed to vote are voting and risking going to prison and getting caught and that you need an ID and you only need a particular ID, then they support things like voter ID laws. … It is one of the issues I was referring to. In Texas, DOJ [the U.S. Department of Justice] brought suit against the Texas voter ID law because you could use your concealed weapon identification, you could use your driver license, but you couldn’t use your student ID. … And now, under the new [Trump] administration, DOJ decided to withdraw from the case.
Have you found voter fraud?
No. We have not looked at it while I’ve been on the commission, but everything I’ve read finds that there isn’t voter fraud. We are thinking about doing a briefing on that subject.