Dispute over voter registrations
The Palast Investigative Fund, a journalism organization, has released a list of 90,000 Nevada voters who were designated “inactive” by Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske.
That is slightly over six percent of the total 1,742,007 registered voters announced by Cegavske on Oct. 1.
Greg Palast has posted the list of inactive voters online so each Nevada voter can check to see if her or his name has been purged. Voters will have until Oct. 18—the date this story hits print—to re-register. Daily media entities have ignored the Cegavske/Palast dispute and so have not provided news coverage that would have let voters know to check their registrations.
Palast said in a prepared statement that he has posted only the names from Clark and Washoe counties “because, frankly, we are running out of the cash needed to process and post the lists from every county in Nevada.” He obtained the names in a court fight after Cegavske withheld the names for more than a year, until a week before the close of voter registration.
“Lawyers for the Palast Investigative Fund filed a 90-day notice that Cegavske would face a lawsuit on grounds of Nevada’s violation of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 for failing to make public the names of voters whose registration the state canceled and full reason for the cancellation,” Palast said.
After that notice was filed, Cegavske turned over the list.
Palast has had a long history of policing voter suppression techniques. A report by Palast and Vincent Bugliosi, Florida Fights Back!, was broadcast on the BBC in 2003. He is the author of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, published in 2006 and updated in 2016, and of Billionaires and Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps.
Meanwhile, Cegavske has an equally long history of efforts to reduce the number of voters. As a state legislator at the 2007 Nevada Legislature, she introduced Senate Bill 385, which would have required voters to present identification at the polling place, although county officials said it was unnecessary. Dan Burk, then Washoe voter registrar, said that during his 10-year tenure, there had never been a prosecution for voter fraud.
“The underlying truth is we don’t have people sneaking in and trying to vote, whether they’re citizens or not citizens,” he said. “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” (“A solution without a problem,” RN&R, March 29, 2007).
The Cegavske bill failed to pass. Voters were—and are—already required to provide identification when they register to vote.
During her campaign for secretary of state, Republican Cegavske said she opposed same-day voter registration and same-day voting.
Cegavske said in April 2017 that her office knew of three Nevadans who voted illegally. She faulted the Department of Motor Vehicles for poor handling of voter registrations in the state’s “motor voter” program.
This year, the Clark County voter registrar reported that about 40 people voted in the June 2018 primary twice—both in early voting and on election day. The bulk of them said they forgot voting the first time. Cegavske said an investigation had been opened of six of the 40 who were suspected of doing so deliberately. Then the next day, she said the probe had been dropped after it was determined the six had not deliberately voted twice.
The 90,000 voters Cegavske moved off the active list of voters from the voter rolls this year were supposedly “inactive” voters. But whether someone is inactive is not determined by a failure to vote in previous elections, but by whether they return postcards sent to them by Cegavske’s office. Inactive voters are still allowed to vote if they return the postcards. They are purged entirely if they don’t return the postcard and fail to vote in two general elections. Previously, the same thing resulted from the failure to vote in two general elections. (We assume the number of voters designated inactive was not exactly 90,000, but we have not been able to learn the exact figure.)
“Cegavske used the same notorious ’purge by postcard’ and ’Crosscheck’ methods of cleansing voter rolls as GOP Secretaries of State Brian Kemp of Georgia and Kris Kobach of Kansas,” Palast said. “Our experts, reviewing these lists, have found that the overwhelming majority of voters who have supposedly moved out of state or out of their home counties have, in fact, not moved an inch—most remain at their original registration address.”
However, Cegavske says she is not purging voters, just moving them to inactive status. Last week, a release was sent out warning voters against organizations interested in voter registration.
“Nevadans are advised that the information provided by these organizations does not necessarily reflect their official and current voter registration status,” the release said. “The Secretary of State’s office is aware of at least one organization that is sending blank voter registration applications in the mail to individuals the organization claims ’may not be registered to vote’ based on public records. We are also aware of an organization that is sending text messages from various phone numbers with a 702 prefix informing individuals that ’public records indicate you’re not registered to vote.’ ”
It’s not clear why Cegavske, as secretary of state, is involved in deciding the status of voters. Voter registration under Nevada statutes is decentralized, with county officials handling the matter, though the secretary of state is empowered to prescribe duties for those county officers.
The United States did not have voter registration for most of its history. It was finally developed to keep low income blacks and whites from voting.
“Full voter registration originated in the early 19th century,” according to Independent Voter Network. “State governments, dominated by wealthy white men, were concerned with the growing participation of foreign-born people voting in local elections. As a result, they instituted voter registration to ensure that non-citizens did not vote. This stopped foreign transients from voting but also disenfranchised many poor citizens. Local politics played a big role in who was registered. Elected officials of the Democratic Party rejected the system. They felt the system targeted the poor, immigrants, and others who could have voted for them.”
That helped hold down voting in the U.S. through the 1920s. But then turnout began rising in the 1930s, and healthy turnout was common until the 1960s, when it began falling. This decline was commonly attributed to disenchantment of voters who did not believe that voting did much to affect their lives.