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Nevada Republicans Are Already Pushing A Voter ID Law After Gaining Control Of The State Capital

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/ROGELIO V. SOLIS
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/ROGELIO V. SOLIS

With their newly earned majority in the state’s legislature, Nevada Republicans have already said they will prioritize the passage of a strict voter ID law before the 2016 election.

Secretary of State-elect Barbara Cegavske (R) told MSNBC that GOP state lawmakers are already writing bills that would require photo identification to vote. The legislation won’t be ready until early next year when the state’s next legislative session begins, but she said the bills could be put on a “placeholder” list of upcoming legislation as soon as next month.

Until this year, Democrats controlled the state Senate and Assembly, so Governor Brian Sandoval (R) will be returning for a second term with a completely Republican-controlled legislature for the first time since 1929. Sandoval has said in the past that he supports voter ID laws, indicating that any legislation that makes it to his desk is likely to be signed.

Cegavske told MSNBC she would only support a law if it didn’t restrict access to the polls because “we want to make sure nobody’s disenfranchised.” But when voter ID laws are in effect, they have been shown to keep people away from the polls. An October report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found that voter ID laws in Kansas and Tennessee led to approximately 122,000 fewer voters in both states in 2012.

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When asked by MSNBC if she has seen voter fraud that she hopes to prevent with a voter ID law, Cegavske said she has heard people report “that they’ve had family members that are deceased that they found out had voted” through absentee ballots.

“To be honest, every time I’ve gone, I’ve shown my identification,” Cegavske said. “I think it’s a privilege and an honor to be able to vote in our country, and I don’t think showing your identification is an issue. I mean, I personally just don’t have a problem with that.”

Past efforts to pass voter ID laws in Nevada have failed, including an attempted ballot initiative brought by failed 2010 Senate candidate Sharron Angle (R) this year. Her initiative failed to gather enough signatures to appear on the ballot.

Nevada isn’t the first state to capitalize on a newly elected Republican majority to pass voter suppression laws. Since Republicans made huge state-level gains in 2010, voter ID laws and other restrictions soared in popularity. Twenty-two states have passed more restrictive rules on voting, and 18 of those states have passed the restrictions through Republican-controlled legislatures. University of Massachusetts Boston social scientists found in a study that voting restrictions have a higher likelihood of passing when Republicans hold a higher proportion of seats in the legislature or when a Republican governor is elected.

Since 2011, nine states have passed restrictive voter ID laws. After the 2010 midterm elections, Wisconsin Republicans won a majority of the state’s legislature and immediately passed a voter ID law during its 2011 session with Gov. Scott Walker (R)’s support. The law has not been enforced since the February 2012 primary, however, because two Wisconsin state courts issued injunctions barring its enforcement and the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the law before the recent election.

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Republicans in Alabama and North Carolina also gained control of both chambers of the state legislature in 2010, and both states passed voter ID laws in the years since which were in effect during the election last week. Other states passed ID laws since 2010, but they did not take effect in 2014 for a variety of reasons.

In Minnesota, for example, Republicans won control of the legislature in 2010 and used their majority to introduce two separate bills in the statehouse that would require voters to show photo ID at the polls. The laws passed both chambers of the state legislature but were vetoed by Governor Mark Dayton (D). Minnesota voters also rejected a voter ID proposal on the 2012 general election ballot.