Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in 2013 that struck down pre-clearance requirements from the Voting Rights Act, Republican-controlled state legislatures jumped at the opportunity to impose restrictions on who could register and vote.
Laws implemented in Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Florida are said to have had major impacts on the outcome of the presidential election in those states. Republicans in Arizona, Texas, Kansas, as well as others continue to explore legislation clearly aimed at suppressing the Democratic vote.
Except for alleged reports of the Democratic National Committee blocking supporters of Bernie Sanders, the term “voter suppression” usually brings to mind the Republican Party. But that is not the case in Nevada.
Voter suppression can be skillfully concealed. Requiring membership in a specific political party to vote in publicly-funded elections, not restoring the right of all voters to have a voice in who represents them, revoking the right to vote for a city official, and not implementing a voting method that would increase participation are all forms of voter suppression.
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Voter suppression as public policy is unfathomable. Yet that’s exactly what Democratic leaders in the Nevada legislature are doing.
A bill replacing Nevada’s closed partisan primaries with a nonpartisan open primary, thus expanding voting opportunity for more than 400,000 registered voters (27 percent of active registered voters), was not even given a hearing.
When asked why, Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford replied, “We don’t feel it’s worthy of a hearing. Next question.”
Four hundred thousand registered voters denied the right to vote in a publicly-funded election equals voter suppression.
A bill that would restore the vote to more than 60 percent of registered voters in some districts -- taken away in 2015 -- was not given a vote by the Assembly Democratic majority leader, either.
Prior to 2015, if only one party fielded two or more candidates for a particular office, the top two candidates would face off in the general election so even members of the opposing party could choose their preferred candidate. The law was changed so that the winner of the closed primary advanced unopposed. This impacted 21 races in 2016.
Since Nevada uses closed partisan primaries, all voters not registered to that party had no voice. The new bill would have restored the old method.
Voters having their choice taken away equals voter suppression.
A bill changing the way two cities choose their city attorney, making the position appointed rather than elected, was passed by the Democratic majority. Voters in Reno and Sparks had elected the city attorney for more than 40 years.
Revoking the right to vote for a city official equals voter suppression. (Note, the bill was vetoed by the Republican governor.)
A bill introduced on behalf of a city to allow mail ballots for all elections rather than just under certain circumstances was not given a committee vote by the Democratic chair.
Not expanding the way people can vote -- increasing participation -- equals voter suppression.
Last session, the Democratic minority blocked presidential primaries after receiving input from then U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). This session, in the majority, they didn’t allow a vote, placing Nevada’s role in national party politics above voter participation.
They also didn’t advance a bill that would add Nevada to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. States that join the compact pledge to award their Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote in presidential elections.
Consider the following quotes:
“Nevadans agree that we need to have a voting system that protects the fundamental right of every eligible voter— Democrat, Republican, non-partisan or otherwise. Voting is a right, not a privilege,” said Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson after Governor Sandoval vetoed automatic voter registration.
"We also need to protect our heritage. That means.. making it easier for our citizens to participate in the democratic process," says The Democratic Caucus’ Nevada Blueprint.
These two statements seem contradictory to the action taken. Intentional or not, voter participation is curtailed. A different direction is possible. We control the future.