Bill would allow Election Day voter registration

(AP) - A bill allowing Nevadans to register to vote on Election Day drew strong reactions Tuesday from supporters who say it promotes "a more representative republic" and opponents who say it creates a breeding ground for fraud.

AB108 removes a deadline specifying residents must register 30 days before an election if done by mail or at satellite sites, or in-person at the county clerk's office no later than three weeks before the election. A proposed amendment calls for adding online voter registration.

"It's a comprehensive effort to bring Nevada's election system into the 21st Century," said Lee Rowland of the New York University School of Law, who presented the bill along with Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, chairman of the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee.

Supporters say same-day registration would keep all other voting rules and verification processes intact, but would remove an "arbitrary" waiting period and eliminate registration hurdles for people who move frequently.

"I would classify voting as a constitutional right, not as something you have to jump through a certain number of hoops to do," Rowland said.

But the bill drew strong backlash, including nearly three dozen people who sought to testify against it at Tuesday's hearing.

Some painted scenarios where buses would pull up to casinos, pick up throngs of illegal immigrants and deposit them at polling places.

"This is a thinly veiled attempt by people to pack the polls," said bill opponent Betty Gilmore.

Bill proponents said same-day registration is law in eight states, and those states have seen a 12 percent increase in voter participation. Rowland added that there is "zero proof" of any more election fraud in those states, compared to states with registration deadlines.

Low-income people who move often, and young people who leave home to attend college, are often disenfranchised by the system, proponents from the ACLU said. If students are busy or do not understand how to change their registration, they lose the opportunity to vote.

While opponents said young people need to learn to be responsible enough to figure out the process, same-day voting proponents said the more important, non-partisan goal was to increase civic participation.

"I think we all want people to vote," said Jan Gilbert of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. "If we don't, there's something wrong with our democracy."

The committee took no action on the bill Tuesday.


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