Reject measures that restrict access to voting

28 April 2023

Nevada enjoys a long and rich history of promoting civic engagement and participation in the democratic process. During the past few legislative sessions, Nevada has increased access to voting by expanding access to mail-in ballots, implementing automatic and same-day voter registration, expanding access to voting for veterans and people who are disabled, restoring voting rights for previously incarcerated persons, and guaranteeing Native American tribe members access to polling locations. As a state, we should be building on that legacy, not tearing it down with unnecessary and potentially harmful legislation that would restrict Nevadans’ constitutional right to vote.

Nevada has earned its reputation for safe, secure and accessible elections. MIT’s nonpartisan Election Performance Index ranks Nevada in the top 15 states for election administration in the nation. Furthermore, an analysis by the Bipartisan Policy Center places Nevada in the top 20 percent of states when it comes to elections. Yet unfounded conspiracy theories questioning the security of our elections persist and, unfortunately, Gov. Joe Lombardo and some legislators have embraced these theories rather than reject them.

It is disappointing that Gov. Lombardo is advocating to repeal or restrict mail-in ballots, an extraordinarily popular measure authored by former Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson and passed by legislative Democrats in the 2021 session. In the last general election, more than half of Nevada’s active registered voters securely cast their ballot through the mail.

Mail-in ballots have been rightfully hailed as an instrumental tool for expanding access to democracy and making voting more accessible to all citizens. This is hardly a surprise in an increasingly complicated and busy world where one job is often not enough to support a family and waiting in long lines to vote is simply not an option. 

By expanding access to the ballot box, mail-in-voting promotes greater civic engagement and bestows us with a more representative democracy. Ensuring we preserve Nevadan’s constitutional right to vote is critical to keep our democracy healthy, vibrant and intact — not just today, but for generations to come.

At this moment, when state legislatures across the country are actively working to erode the constitutional right to vote, Nevada must remain a leader in voting access. Nevada must reject any measures that restrict the fundamental right to vote, and the state legislature must protect and uphold the right to vote for all Nevadans.

In his State of the State speech in January, Gov. Lombardo acknowledged that “The right to vote is the most fundamental right in society.” I agree, so let’s not erect unnecessary and unwarranted barriers and restrictions based on unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. As has been shown time and time again, our election process in Nevada is safe and secure.

Our state does not need to impose unnecessary restrictions, such as voter ID laws, on our constitutional right to vote. Voter ID laws disproportionately impact low-income voters, young voters, voters of color, and elderly voters. In fact, according to the AARP, “nearly one in five citizens over 65 — about 8 million — [lack] a current, government-issued photo ID.” These are the same communities that are already disadvantaged when it comes to accessing the ballot box. As a result, voter ID laws can have the unintended consequence of suppressing voter participation and (perhaps the intended consequence of) eroding confidence in our electoral process.

Nevada has already implemented a number of election integrity safeguards. For example, the state’s electronic voting machines are not connected to the internet, which protects them against hacking and tampering. Additionally, the state’s election officials have implemented protective measures to ensure that only eligible voters are allowed to cast their ballot. State law requires that a “post-election certification audit” be performed by each county.

At a time when trust in our democracy is at an all-time low, we should be doing everything we can to encourage voter participation and ensure that all eligible voters are able to exercise their right to vote. Restricting mail-in ballots and imposing voter ID laws does the opposite — they make it harder for people to vote.

Instead of focusing on unnecessary and potentially harmful policies like voter ID, we should be working to expand access to the ballot box and ensure that every voice is heard. Nevadans should be wary of those who are trying to make it more difficult for their fellow citizens to vote by claiming there is a problem where there isn’t one and put proposals like ending mail-in ballots and voter ID where they belong — on the rubbish pile of solutions in search of a problem.

Emily Persaud-Zamora is the executive director of Silver State Voices, a nonpartisan coalition of nonprofit organizations dedicated to voting access.

The post Reject measures that restrict access to voting appeared first on The Nevada Independent.

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