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Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske’s recent allegations, that the state Department of Motor Vehicles has allowed ineligible noncitizens to register to vote, are raising eyebrows and ire in the Silver State. The Review-Journal has more:
Gov. Brian Sandoval said Monday that he “expects to hear more” from the secretary of state about allegations of voter fraud, and he expressed confidence in voter registration procedures at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske took state officials, including the governor and the DMV director, by surprise late Friday when she announced that her office had uncovered evidence that noncitizens had voted in last year’s presidential election. Cegavske in a letter blamed the DMV, claiming that the agency’s personnel had given voter registration materials to people they knew or should have known were ineligible to vote.
In a letter to DMV Director Terri Albertson, Cegavske said the practice must “cease immediately.” Cegavske is a Republican and former state legislator from Las Vegas.
The DMV is firing back, claiming that it is merely following the law, and that the SoS has been aware of its practices long before these allegations – a response endorsed by the Governor:
Albertson responded Saturday, saying that the process used at the DMV had been vetted by the secretary of state, the attorney general’s office and others.
On Monday, Sandoval, a Republican in the middle of his second term, said, “I take any allegations of voter fraud seriously and expect to hear more from the secretary of state concerning the charge made by her office.”
But he stood by the DMV, saying the agency operated under guidelines adopted following a memorandum of understanding signed by the secretary of state’s office, the DMV and others to comply with the 1993 National Voting Rights Act.
The federal law requires state motor vehicle agencies to provide voter registration applications whenever someone applies for or renews a driver’s license.
“The DMV’s role is an administrative function in accordance with state and federal law,” Sandoval said. “The discretion to register an applicant lies exclusively with the registrar in the county where the applicant resides.”
Local officials – especially the one in Nevada’s largest county – were similarly surprised at the allegations:
Joe Gloria, voter registrar in Clark County, said Monday that the secretary of state did not notify him of her findings, even though it’s the largest county in the state and home to more than 2 million people.
“I wish I had something to tell you,” Gloria said. “I’m in much the same boat as most other officials. We haven’t seen any information related to exactly what the secretary of state has discovered.”
He added, “As far as I’m concerned, all of the procedures currently in place are exactly what they should be, and we rely on the DMV to provide that information to us.”
Cegavske’s office has not disclosed how many people are suspected of casting illegal ballots or how many nonresidents may be on the voter rolls. No new information was provided Monday.
This controversy is almost certainly related to the upcoming campaign for passage of an automatic registration (AVR) bill, which was recently vetoed but will go before voters in 2018. Reaction in the legislature varied, with a somewhat predictable though not completely partisan response:
During [the AVR] debate on the Senate floor, Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, said more than 21,000 noncitizens in Nevada have driver licenses or identification cards, and the initiative would increase the chances someone ineligible will register to vote.
Kieckhefer said Monday that he, too, is awaiting details on the scope of the secretary of state’s investigation.
“It might be just one or two people,” he said. “Who knows?”
Assemblyman Paul Anderson, the Republican minority leader, said over the weekend that the allegations of illegal voting “are serious and troubling.”
Democratic Majority Leader Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, would not speculate.
“We’re going to withhold comment until she shows us the evidence that she says she has,” Ford said.
Secretary Cegavske’s next move is to provide more detail on her allegations – which will undoubtedly set off a fierce debate over not just the potential for voter fraud but also the role of DMV and the implementation of “motor voter” at the state and local level. If nothing else, it’s a clear signal that next year’s debate over AVR is already starting – and it could be a doozy.
Stay tuned …