Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ross Miller's Shocking "November Surprise"

On Tuesday, we had to work through a whole lot of confusion regarding Ross Miller's voter ID proposal. Since then, we've been seeing some surprising reactions in and around Carson City. On one hand, Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey (R-Reno) seemed to like at least the concept of Miller addressing voter ID. Governor Brian Sandoval (R) also seemed to warm up to at least the concept of tackling voter ID next spring.

But on the other hand, at least some Democrats still have serious reservations about even debating the subject in Carson City next spring. Incoming Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick (D-North Las Vegas) gave Jon Ralston a public statement expressing her doubts of the merit of this proposal.

Speaker-to-be Marilyn Kirkpatrick tells me she is not exactly excited by Miller's idea: "We don’t have that kind of money to solve a problem that doesn’t exist."

Although Kirkpatrick is so far the highest profile Democrat to publicly take a critical eye to Miller's proposal, she's not the only one who's been complaining about it.

Perhaps this is why Ross Miller went on Ralston's show. Even with his thorough explanation on Twitter on Tuesday, he still needed to clear the air. Yet even last night, Ralston still had serious doubts.

And frankly, I'm still trying to sort this out myself. So there's a "perception problem" with the public when it comes to voter fraud. And Ross Miller's proposal aims to properly nip that perception problem in the bud. And not only that, but he wants to do so without disenfranchising any legal voters. So what's wrong with this?

As Marilyn Kirkpatrick suggested, the key problem looks to be this quest to solve a problem that doesn't actually exist. We all know "voter fraud" (as in impersonating voters and/or trying to cast multiple ballots) is incredibly rare, and that it's virtually always caught in time. Whenever a report surfaces of someone trying to commit this type of fraud, we know the system works because this person was caught in time. So why is there a rush to spend a whole lot of money on "a solution in search of a problem"? And in implementing this "solution", might it actually create new problems by creating new burdens for many thousands of Nevada voters?

Is it due to the perception of "fraud"? Or is there more to this story? There have been whispers for some time about the "tea party" lobby going all in to push for the kind of voter ID law that actually would suppress legal voters. Is this Ross Miller's way of being proactive in preventing real voter suppression?

That's why Minnesota's Secretary of State introduced his alternative voter ID proposal (which is where Ross Miller is drawing inspiration from). However, it was still not enough to stop the then Republican controlled Legislature from putting their preferred voter suppression/voter ID bill on the November ballot. But in the following months, everyone in St. Paul encountered a huge surprise: voter ID lost at the ballot box. Apparently as progressive organizations were educating voters about the ramifications of this bill, support dropped.

So can the same happen in Nevada? That's probably what's on a lot of people's minds right now. Is it better to address the perception of fraud and simultaneously prevent any real voter suppression? Or would this bill just add unnecessary costs and complications to the election process without really accomplishing anything?

Without a doubt, Ross Miller's bill is turning out to be "The November Surprise" that will be shaking up Carson City in the new year. I can't wait to see what happens when this finally lands in state legislators' hands.

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