Nevada Governor Vetoes AVR, Voters to Decide

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Yesterday, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval vetoed a bill that would have established automatic voter registration in the Silver State – but voters will get a chance to decide its fate at the polls next year. The Las Vegas Review-Journal has more:

Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed his first bill of the 2017 legislative session Tuesday, rejecting a citizen initiative to automatically sign up people to vote when they get a driver’s license.

It now goes to voters on the 2018 general election ballot.

In his veto message, Sandoval said the measure “extinguishes a fundamental, individual choice — the right of eligible voters to decide for themselves whether they desire to apply to register to vote — forfeiting this basic decision to state government.” [The veto message can be found here.]

Sandoval added it “would create an unnecessary risk that people who are not qualified voters may unintentionally apply to vote, subjecting them to possible criminal prosecution, fines and other legal action.”

Sandoval’s action was not entirely unexpected given that the issue had become the subject of intense partisan debate:

The Automatic Voter Registration Initiative, or IP1, was sent to the governor last week after it received final legislative approval by the Democrat-controlled Senate and Assembly. The votes were along predictable party lines.

The measure requires the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles to forward to the secretary of state information for voter registration applications when someone applies for or renews a driver’s license or identification card, or makes a change of address.

The secretary of state would then forward that information to county elections officials to verify and complete the voter registration process…

Existing law allows people who go to the DMV to opt in to register to vote. Under the initiative, the registration application would be automatic unless someone specifically opts out by checking a box.

Also not surprising is that the difference of opinion over the bill boils down, in essence, to the familiar one of access vs. integrity:

Supporters said it would increase voter rolls in Nevada and engage more people in the election process.

Opponents countered that the registration system works fine and that the initiative could lead to voter fraud.

Sandoval agreed, saying the current DMV voter registration process “provides the necessary balance for voluntary and informed voter registration.”

“IP1 upsets that balance, removing the element of allowing an individual to initiate the voter registration process, and increasing the possibility of improper registration.”

The veto does not end the debate, however; because the proposal came to the legislature as an initiative, the measure will go to Nevada voters in 2018. In his veto message, Sandoval noted that they are the best ones to decide the issue:

Don’t be surprised to see AVR become the subject of intense scrutiny – and heated rhetoric – given the sharp divide on the issue between the two parties, both in Nevada and across the nation.

Stay tuned …

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