A new Republican majority in Carson City will aim to make Nevada the latest state to require voters to show identification at the polls, opening a new front in the voting wars that have angered Democrats and minority groups.
Proponents of voter identification laws say those laws help prevent fraud at the polls. The Nevada version would enforce strict requirements on what types of identification are acceptable, including only state- and federally-issued forms of identification.
College identifications would not be acceptable. Voters without an accepted form of ID would be allowed to cast a provisional ballot, which would not be counted until they show proper identification at a county or city clerk’s office.
The bill, which is modeled on a version passed in Indiana, would also require Nevada’s Department of Motor Vehicles to provide free identifications for the purposes of voting to anyone who cannot afford or does not have a driver’s license. That provision is aimed at assuaging concerns over the thousands of Nevada residents without proper identification.
Academic studies analyzed by the General Accounting Office, Congress’s watchdog agency, found between 5 and 20 percent of voters do not have proper forms of identification. One study found that only 79 percent of African Americans in Texas have a state-issued identification card that would allow them to vote.
Opponents of voter identification laws say those laws disproportionately burden minority, younger and low-income residents, who are more likely to back Democratic candidates.
The GAO report, issued in October, found African American turnout dropped more than white turnout in Kansas and Tennessee, two states that recently implemented voter ID laws. Turnout dropped even more among 18 year olds compared with those between 44 and 53 years old.
Thirty-four states have passed laws requiring voters to show some form of identification when they vote, and 31 of those state laws are in force today, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The proposal in Nevada would require a photo identification, a stricter standard currently applied by Texas, Kansas, Indiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia and Virginia.
Republicans captured control of Nevada’s legislature in 2014, on the strength of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s (R) landslide reelection win. Internal party feuds between conservatives and centrists have hampered some of Sandoval’s agenda. Eight conservative Republicans are behind the push to require identifications at the polling place.