Since gaining a clear majority and control of the state government in the latest election, Nevada Republican party officials have announced an agenda to pursue the passage of voter ID laws which appears flawed at best and counter-productive even to their own mandate. In the wake of taking the majority of votes in an election, to make pursuing voter fraud a priority appears on the face of it to send a conflicting message. Even Rand Paul, in a recent interview, said that it was “dumb” for Republicans who were courting minority voters to set this as a priority on the election platform. Whether the Nevada legislature decides to take this up in February or not, it could easily be a moot point if those who remember these types of laws as they were used in the past to reduce access to the vote also remember some of the protections which were put into place in the aftermath of that time. Something as simple as an absentee ballot could be an elegant solution to a ham-handed initiative.
Despite the contradictory messages of calling for higher voter turnout and calling for immediate picture ID legislation, the measure would likely be signed in Nevada if the new Republican majority were to push a bill through. Republican Governor Brian Sandoval is on the record as in favor of voter ID laws, so would likely not contradict himself in this case. It may behoove him to do so, or at least convince legislators between now and then that telling the constituency that just gave them a controlling majority that they are very concerned with voting fraud is a poor message to put forth as an imminent priority is a poor choice, but it seems unlikely. Regardless of whether the ill-conceived initiative is pushed through, however, the Democratic party already has what it needs to counteract the invasive legislation before it is even passed.
In the past, voting laws such as this have been used to prevent lower-income, elderly and largely minority, voters from being able to exercise their rights. In the modern era, however, this disenfranchisement is far more easily overcome with the application of technology and the internet. It is much easier now to simply vote by absentee ballot and circumvent the entire voter ID farce. Forms to request one are online in most cases, and can be obtained easily by providing basic information for identification. Nevada voters can even register to vote online using their state-issued ID, without ever leaving their house. Presented properly to the public, Democratic leaders could even promote the use of absentee ballots as a real solution to voting fraud using a less discriminatory and completely trackable methods. If done well, Nevada Democrats would even come out looking like the progressive party, availing themselves of modern technology to increase voter turnout while the Republicans are making a priority of hearkening back to older days of trying to undercut Democratic support with disenfranchising legislation.
If Nevada Republicans want to pursue this flawed agenda of shooting for new voter ID legislation out of the gate, it may be a good idea for Democrats to let them cut their own throats. The measure can only paint them in a light of moving backwards toward a time of deliberate disenfranchisement rather than forward toward greater representation. A well-executed education program about absentee balloting and some support programs to facilitate the ability of individuals such as the elderly or infirm to have access to the technology or opportunity to exercise their right to participate through that process would be a simple and productive start to countering the Republican effort. If the Nevada Republicans want to prioritize creating a solution to a problem that many do not even think exists, than the best way for Democrats to distinguish themselves as the party actually interested in progress is to promote simple solutions to the problems that the opposition, in their rush to exercise power, might create.
Editorial By Jim Malone
Image courtesy of Mike Linksvayer – Flickr License