Nevada Republicans, having won control of the state legislature in 2014, are moving to increase barriers to voting.
A series of proposed laws in the state attack voting rights by mandating photographic voter identification cards and proof of citizenship to verify voting eligibility and narrowing early voting windows. These measures would disproportionately impact people of color, women, young people, and the elderly, and could hurt their chances of voting in the 2016 elections.
“What we’re talking about here is putting a major obstacle in front of a fundamental right,” Assemblyman Elliot Anderson (D) told the Associated Press.
The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 accelerated the voter registration progress by integrating voter registration forms into driver’s license applications and state identification forms through the DMV. These Nevada bills directly undermine this federal statue by requiring verification of citizenship by a local county clerk’s office. Clerk’s offices may request supporting documents that indicate citizenship like birth certificates for individuals that register through the DMV. If these documents are not presented to their office within 15 days an individual will be removed from the state voter registry.
A similar law in Arizona was struck down by the US Supreme Court, with conservative Justice Antonin Scalia writing the Court opinion that declared the law conflicted with federal laws regulating elections.
Changes of this ilk to voting laws directly impact the poor and elderly, for whom locating documents and traveling to submit them is made more difficult due to time restrictions and cost. These policies could also disproportionately impact women, who may not have birth certificates that match their married names. If those women are unable to locate and present both their wedding certificate and birth certificate, they could be denied voting eligibility.
The proposed changes to early voting would end early voting on Sundays and force polls to operate only between 7 AM and PM on any given day – despite the fact that early voting currently takes place in Las Vegas, for example, until 9 PM, making voting more accessible for casino workers, a large portion of whom are people of color.
Lawmakers who push voting restrictions often cite voter fraud as their concern, but study after study has failed to find evidence of widespread voter impersonation. Voter suppression and discrimination, however, remain alive and well – and prevent some of the most marginalized people in the country from being heard at the ballot box.
Media Resources: Think Progress 4/9/15, Nevada State Bills AB 253, AB 266, AB 459, SB 443, and SB 437; Nevada State DMV; United State Department of Justice NVRA FAQ; Feminist Newswire 6/18/13; FMF Blog 6/26/13; Media Matters for America 10/30/14