Justice

Republican Lawmakers Hope To Turn Nevada Into A Playground For Voter Suppression

CREDIT: AP Photo/Eric Gay

In the 2010 election, a single conservative multimillionaire named Art Pope bankrolled a Republican takeover of North Carolina, winning 18 state legislative races and turning the state legislature red for the first time since 1870. Two years later, he helped fund a Pat McCrory’s (R) successful gubernatorial campaign. (McCrory would later name Pope as his budget director.) With Republicans in full control of North Carolina, that state that voted for Barack Obama in 2008 soon instituted a rash of conservative legislation, from voter ID and various forms of voter suppression to other GOP causes, including regressive taxes on the poor, blocking Medicaid expansion, and cutting pre-Kindergarten funding.

Now, a few years later, a similar scenario could soon play out in a different state: Nevada.

In 2014, Nevada Republicans won control of both chambers of the state legislature. With a GOP governor already in place, Republicans in the Silver State won a trifecta they had not enjoyed since 1929.

They’re not wasting time.

Within months of taking the reins, Republicans introduced multiple bills to restrict voting rights. Like North Carolina, the success or failure of these bills will depend solely on Republican legislators’ whims. Democrats can do little to affect the process.

GOPers have introduced multiple bills to require voter ID in the state, a move that could have a significant discriminatory effect among Nevada’s high minority population. These bills include AB 253 and AB 266, both of which were advanced in committee last week. Republicans have also proposed a similar voter ID bill, SB 169, as well as a constitutional amendment to implement voter ID. Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) has also expressed support for voter ID.

Assemblyman Elliot Anderson (D) warned that both poor and older Nevadans could be hurt by voter ID. “What we’re talking about here is putting a major obstacle in front of a fundamental right,” Anderson said, according to the AP.

Republicans aren’t just trying to push voter ID. A pair of bills, AB 459 and SB 437, were recently introduced to require that many voters present proof of citizenship or else their registration will be canceled. Requiring people to find documents like their birth certificate in order to vote would discourage huge swaths of potential voters from doing so. Though a similar law in neighboring Arizona was recently struck down by a 7-2 Supreme Court, that didn’t stop Nevada Republicans from trying to move ahead with the idea.

Finally, the State Senate is considering SB 433, which would impose new restrictions on early voting. Specifically, the bill would mandate that early voting cannot take place on Sundays (a day of high turnout for many predominantly African American churches), as well as before 7am or after 7pm. In the past, early voting in Las Vegas has stayed open until 9pm in the past to accommodate workers.

If passed, these bills could have a major impact on the 2016 presidential election, where Nevada’s six electoral votes are highly contested by the two parties. The state went blue in 2012 and 2008, but voted Republican in 2004 and 2000.

At the moment, Republicans only enjoy a narrow majority in each legislative chamber; 11 of 21 seats in the Senate and 25 of 42 in the Assembly. The question is whether this slim majority leads them to be cautious and not overstep their mandate, or encourages them to attempt to retain their majority by suppressing voters in future elections.