Friday, March 15, 2013

RGJ Hands SB 63 Election Reform a Life Preserver. (But How Long Can It Last?)

This week has been a critical one on the voting rights front. Yet another study was released this week demonstrating how voter suppression is accomplished with the kind of voter ID laws desired by the "tea party". Meanwhile here in Nevada, Secretary of State Ross Miller faced a grueling hearing for SB 63, his election modernization bill featuring an electronic poll book proposal.

After yesterday's hearing, even more doubts emerged over the viability of SB 63 in the Nevada Legislature. Will certain Republicans try to amend the bill and replace Miller's preferred electronic poll book with the very ALEC model legislation that encourages voter suppression? And if/when that happens, how long/short will it take for Democratic leadership to kill the entire bill once and for all?

Today, Ross Miller can breathe a little more easily. That's because the Reno Gazette Journal published an editorial this morning singing the praises of SB 63. Here's the key passage.

It is inevitable the state will replace those paper election books,if for no other reason than to save money in austere times; Washoe County Registrar of Voters Dan Burk estimated at a hearing on Thursday that he could save $50,000 to $60,000 every election cycle by replacing those paper books.

Although some details remain to be worked out and it will take tax money to make it work, Miller’s plan is a good start at reaching that goal. [...]

So, it’s difficult to see how including a photograph —copied from those taken at the DMV, in most cases —would make things any more difficult for a voter. It wouldn’t cost any additional money, as obtaining a government ID may; nor will it require voters to make a special trip to obtain an ID.

What it would do is make it a little easier on poll workers to meet their responsibility to determine whether voters are who they say they are.

And what Miller’s Senate Bill 63 would do is bring Nevada’s elections into the 21st century. It deserves approval.

Of course, the RGJ framed this in a conservative way. "Why, of course voter ID makes perfect sense! And that's why we just love us some Ross Miller & SB 63!" However, I doubt Miller minds this at all. After all, this fits quite well into his strategy of "election geek jiu-jitsu".

It just remains to be seen if today's RGJ editorial can convince enough Republicans to back away from ALEC and its preferred voter ID model legislation. It also remains to be seen if skeptical Democrats can be assured that SB 63 will do no harm in inviting future voter suppression and/or more immediate complications to negotiations on otherwise unrelated bills (such as the budget and driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants).

But at least for now, SB 63 is hanging on to see another day at #NVLeg. It just remains to be seen how much of an appetite legislators truly have for election modernization.

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