Same-day voter registration bill flawed

If you’ve ever moved and forgotten to re-register to vote, this column is for you. Currently, our Legislature is considering a bill allowing Nevadans to register and vote on the very same day. This sounds like a good idea, but, alas, AB108 is seriously flawed.

Currently, voters must submit an application no later than 30 days by mail or in person three weeks prior to the election at the Washoe County Registrar’s office. AB108 would strip these provisions from our current laws.

Rebecca Gasca, legislative and policy director for the ACLU of Nevada, is actively lobbying for this legislation saying that “states with Election Day registration have higher turnout by about 10 percent, which means that elections in those states more adequately represent the will of all eligible voters.”

Gia Gallegos, organizer of the Reno Tea Party movement, sings a very different tune. “Voting is a right, being an informed voter is a responsibility. How can someone be expected to make an informed choice if they haven’t even bothered to register on time?”

When I asked Gallegos about what being an informed voter meant to her, she turned the tables on me. “Sean, how long does it take you to read your sample ballot?”

“Two days or so,” I responded.

“That’s precisely my point!”

Gallegos shot back. “If someone as well versed as you needs a couple days to make an informed decision, how will someone who hasn’t received a sample ballot be able to do so while registering and voting at the same time?”

Gasca cites student disenfranchisement as a major reason for supporting this bill. “Despite college campuses generally fostering high interest in campaigns and issues during election season, most voter-eligible Nevada college students don’t realize they are at a high risk for disfranchisement until it is too late—students from Las Vegas who attend college in Reno, for example. They who are registered, especially first-time voters, often do not realize their eligibility doesn’t transfer statewide. By the time they realize this—usually when they show up at the polls—it is too late for them to re-register.”

Gasca’s logic cursorily appears sound but loses credibility upon further examination. UNR is an early voting location for two weeks and an Election Day polling place. It is the regular site of high-profile political events such as candidate debates, rallies and tireless political activism from both sides and at every one of these events as well as all major sporting events, campus rallies and such both parties conduct voter registration drives. College campuses are ground zero in the political realm. Students who want to engage have more opportunities than anyone.

While increasing the number of citizens that cast a vote on Election Day is a noble goal, it should not be undertaken at the expense of increasing the potential for voter fraud, inconsistencies and mistakes. AB108 also includes provisions to automatically register to vote anyone who has interacted with a long list of state agencies, including those being released from prison. This in itself is a reason this bill should not pass. There are citizens who genuinely do not want to be voters, and automatic registration is a gross invasion of their privacy.

The proponents of Election Day registration have some good points, and they are absolutely correct that our 30-day registration cutoff is too long and should be shortened and potentially eliminated, but not this way. The ACLU is quick to point out there are few instances of fraud, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t account for them. There is a huge opportunity for bipartisanship here. Who knows? With a photo ID requirement for all voters attached to this legislation, Republican support may materialize. The Democrats almost got it right with this one. Almost. Unfortunately, in its current form AB108 is bloated, vague and deserves to fail.