SOS race highlights voter ID issue

Republican secretary of state candidate Barbara Cegavske still supports requiring Nevadans to present identification at the polls in order to vote, a proposal she offered as a state legislator.

Her opponent, Democrat Kate Marshall, opposes the idea on grounds that voter identification systems are expensive and unnecessary.

In 2007, Cegavske sponsored Senate Bill 385 to implement such a program. She also cosponsored a similar 2009 measure, S.B. 315. In the years since, voter ID programs have gained a reputation for preventing pro-Democratic voters, like senior citizens who no longer drive and low income people, from voting. In public meetings this year Cegavske said she still supports such a proposal.

Cegavske said in 2007 that her reason for introducing her bill was, “I talked to poll workers who say they have no idea if the person that comes forward is who they say they are. No checks and balances.” (“A solution without a problem,” RN&R, March 29, 2007.)

Poll workers are volunteers who work on Election Day for a one-day stipend. But election officials, who are more familiar with the voting process, said that voter fraud is very rare in Nevada. “The underlying truth is we don't have people sneaking in and trying to vote, whether they're citizens or not citizens,” said then-Washoe voter registrar Dan Burk when Cegavske's bill was being processed. “And the last thing that a person who is not a bona fide citizen of our country wants to do is possibly get themselves in a felony situation.”

His successor, Luanne Cutler, also says fraud is nearly unknown.

Voter fraud is usually committed on the counting end, not the voting end, and there are no studies that show wide fraud of the type that would be prevented by voter identification (“The fraud of voter fraud,” RN&R, Oct. 25, 2012). Virtually all instances cited as evidence of voter fraud are rare individual cases, not studies showing widespread fraud or patterns of fraud, which is why most voter identification advocates rely on anecdotes. In most of those examples, fraudulent votes were prevented, not cast.

Nevadans must provide identification to register to vote. After that, election officials say, the real problem is getting people to vote at all.

Nevada's secretary of state has nothing to do with running elections, but can prescribe the rules for county officials who do.

Currently in Ohio, there is an ongoing scandal over Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted using rulemaking authority to implement “every rule imaginable to impede the voting of people not like him,” as Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald put it.