Automatic, Permanent Voter Registration Efforts in Nevada

March 23, 2017

In March 2017, Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed an automatic voter registration bill that the legislature passed earlier in the month. Initiative Petition 1, which was originally introduced via a citizen petition and pushed by voting rights advocates, will now appear on the 2018 general election ballot. If the policy is approved by voters, eligible citizens will be registered to vote through the DMV unless they decline. Nevada would join the growing list of states that have adopted automatic registration since 2015.

Earlier in March 2017, voting rights groups announced they had reached an agreement with the state that achieved many of the modernization goals of previous legislative efforts (see below). Under a signed Memorandum of Understanding, voter registration information will be transferred electronically between the DMV and the Secretary of State’s office. Additionally, address updates processed through the DMV will be used to update registered voters’ existing information unless they decline. These improvements will enable the state to more easily implement automatic registration if voters approve Initiative Petition 1.

Prior Developments

Voter-registration modernization efforts gained momentum in September 2010, when the state introduced online voter registration for the first time. The portal was accessible only to residents of Clark County, home to 72% of the state’s population, but the program’s success led to its rapid expansion. The governor signed an online voter registration bill into law in 2011, and the system was available statewide by the 2012 election. 

In 2013, the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee approved legislation to electronically transfer voters’ information between state agencies and election officials, a key component of automatic registration. The Brennan Center and other civic groups urged the state to pass the bill, but the full senate ultimately declined to vote on it. This followed up on previous efforts by the Brennan Center to overhaul the registration system in 2011.

Nevada has also begun using electronic poll books. Six out of 17 elections jurisdictions in the state used electronic poll books to sign in voters in 2014.

Gains from Voter Registration Modernization in Nevada

The steps Nevada has taken thus far have yielded increases in voter registration and financial benefits for the state. For example:  

  • During a June 2013 interview with Brennan Center staff, Nevada election officials reported saving money at the county level on staff time and paper costs due to online voter registration. Nevada implemented online registration at a cost of approximately $225,000. 
  • According to the Election Assistance Commission, the state received about 15,000 new voter registration applications through its online portal between November 2012 and November 2014.