A Nevada Assembly committee on Thursday decided to advance two bills that would require voters to show identification to cast a ballot, sending the proposals to another committee for financial review without a recommendation to pass them.
The Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee voted unanimously to move AB253 and AB266 to another step in the legislative process, although several Democrats said they disagreed with the policy behind the measures.
“I’ll be voting to get it out to go to Ways and Means,” said Democratic Assemblyman Tyrone Thompson. “But this is a very serious concern for myself and my constituents.”
In addition to requiring identification at the ballot box, the bills would require the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles to create and distribute free voter cards to a person without another form of identification. An amendment added to AB253 would set up a system of taking photos at polling places when people don’t have identification, similar to a proposal put forth by former Secretary of State Ross Miller in 2012.
The two bills were the subject of a spirited hearing March 17. Witnesses disagreed on whether Nevada suffered from a voter fraud problem and whether an ID requirement would disenfranchise poor and marginalized citizens.
“In our world today, it’s very common to take out that photo ID, no matter what you do,” said Republican Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, who said most of the people he knew already have ID and would feel more secure by requiring it to vote. “I think it’s a matter of comfort.”
Democrats, including Assemblyman Elliot Anderson, argue that the bills would severely limit constitutional rights for the elderly and the poor.
“What we’re talking about here is putting a major obstacle in front of a fundamental right,” Anderson said during the hearing.
Sixteen states have implemented laws requiring some sort of photo identification to vote. Assemblywoman Jill Dickman, the Republican sponsor of one of the bills, said it is modeled after an Indiana law that the Supreme Court ruled is constitutional.
Despite multiple questions from Democrats on the committee during the hearing, the proposal’s sponsors were only able to provide anecdotal evidence of an issue with voter impersonation. Dickman said the ID measures would head off potential voter fraud in the future.
Republican Sen. James Settelmeyer is sponsoring a similar bill, SB169, in the Senate. All three bills contain nearly identical language.
In addition, Republican Sen. Don Gustavson is proposing a constitutional amendment to require voter identification.