Nevada boasted the nation’s highest turnout increase on Election Day, thanks to its innovative efforts to make voting more accessible. But less than a month later, Secretary of State Ross Miller, a Democrat, is now suggesting the use of voter ID—which could reverse his own efforts to expand democracy and mean a lower turnout in subsequent elections.
More than 1 million people voted in Nevada’s general election this year, up 4.5 percent from 2008. The Western state is a perennial battleground, and voters there have always sided with the eventual presidential winner in each of the past nine elections. In 2008, Latinos were credited with helping then-candidate Barack Obama take the presidency, and Latinos knew that registration and get out the vote efforts would also prove crucial this year.
As we reported in October, a Latina organizer who was registering voters outside of a Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles office was so badly intimidated that she dyed her hair blond in order to avoid more problems. It didn’t help. Elvira Díaz says she continued to be harassed, and was physically shoved and spat on by a Republican operative named Alex Bacchus, who also gestured his hands into the shape of a gun, aimed those hands at her and made gunshot sounds.
For his part, Nevada Secretary of State Miller helped streamline the registration process by allowing voters to register online. In 2010, Miller began using funds made available from the Help America Vote Act to create a new online registration system. Two years and about $250,000 later, voters in all seventeen Nevada counties could use online registration—similar systems are available in only ten other states. The move allowed people with Internet access to avoid being subject to intimidation for registering. Making registration conveniently available online helped drive Nevada’s turnout increase.
Early voting also helped. More than 600,000 people voted in the two weeks prior to Election Day, accounting for 61 percent of the total number of ballots cast. People in low income and predominately Latino neighborhoods complained of long waits, and some voters were asked for identification when none was required. Yet the push for registration and early voting meant that a whopping 80 percent of voters participated—and chose to re-elect President Obama.
But the otherwise smooth election did run into one major glitch as early voting closed. Roxanne Rubin, a registered Republican, was arrested on November 2, and charged with a felony for attempting to vote twice. According to a sworn affidavit used to support an arrest warrant, Rubin had voted at one location earlier in the week but was disturbed that she did not need to provide identification when she altered her signature. The criminal investigator in Rubin’s case “compared the signatures and noticed only subtle differences in the handwriting; specifically in the R’s.”