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Nevadans Have Opportunity to Upgrade Voter Registration, Help More Citizens Vote

Two bills up for consideration in Nevada this week give the state a chance to take leaps forward, expanding voting rights and making voter registration easier and more cost-effective.

  • Andrew Goldston
March 22, 2011

Here’s some great news out of Nevada, where the Brennan Center has been working with the Chairman of the State Assembly’s Elections Committee to assist with the drafting of one bill and with amendments to a second. The two bills, together, would make Nevada a national leader on voting rights and voter registration.

Nevada’s voter registration system is still essentially paper-based. This makes the maintenance of basic voter registration records extra-costly and extra error-prone – a bad combination. Inaccurate, outdated registration rolls pose problems for election authorities, increasing the cost of election administration and voter mailings, making it difficult to properly plan for elections, and rousing fears of possible fraud.

An amended version of Nevada Assembly Bill 108 which will be introduced later today will propose to solve this problem by updating the voter registration system. The amended version of Bill 108 will propose full voter registration modernization, and would provide for:

  • One-stop automated voter registration available for eligible citizens when they interact with a range of government agencies
  • Portable voter registration, so that Nevada voters stay registered even if they move within the state. This is particularly important in a state like Nevada – according to the Census’ 2006 American Community Survey, nearly 400,000 Nevadans moved within the state in just a year – about 16% of the state’s population at the time of the estimate. Now, post-foreclosure crisis, that number is probably even larger.
  • A statewide online voter interface where Nevadans can register to vote and find polling place information.
  • Election Day registration, to ensure that every eligible Nevadan may register and vote on Election Day.

This combination of modern voter registration systems and policies would ultimately make election administration easier and help as many eligible citizens vote as possible. It would also be a good call for Nevada’s taxpayers – states that have adopted modernized registration have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars on election administration, with savings likely to run into the millions after just a few years of implementation. Among the cost statistics that the Brennan Center has collected:

  • It cost Arizona less than $130,000 and Washington just $279,000 to implement both online voter registration and automated voter registration at DMVs.
  • Delaware’s paperless voter registration at Department of Motor Vehicles offices saves election officials more than $200,000 annually on personnel costs, above the savings reaped by partially automating the process in the mid-1990s. Officials anticipate further savings.
  • Online and automated DMV registrations saved Maricopa County, Arizona over $450,000 in 2008. The county spends 33¢ to manually process an electronic application, and an average of 3¢ using a partially automated review process, compared to 83¢ for a paper registration form.

The version of Bill 108 that will be introduced this afternoon would give Nevada’s voters the 21st-century voter registration system they deserve.

Meanwhile, Nevada’s patchwork of laws and policies concerning the restoration of voting rights for people with past criminal convictions needs work, too. Nevada has become one of the most restrictive states in the Union when it comes to restoring the right to vote to those who have served their time, and the rules for recovering voting rights in Nevada are so complicated and variable, often neither the voter registration agency nor the voter himself knows when or how to reclaim this basic right of citizenship, according to this study from the ACLU of Nevada.

Nevada Assembly Bill 301 would make the rules for Nevadans who have served their time consistent, restoring voting rights upon completion of felony sentences of prison, probation, or parole, and notifying citizens of their right to vote when they become eligible.

These two bills give Nevada dual opportunities to both be a leader on voting rights and to make a thoughtful investment in a long-term cost-saver for taxpayers. As the Nevada legislature considers these bills this week, let’s hope legislators keep them moving in the right direction!