Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012 | 4:52 p.m.
Since taking office, Secretary of State Ross Miller has declared Nevada’s electoral system to be safe enough from fraud that a voter identification system shouldn’t be a priority.
On Tuesday, he took a step back from that line, proposing a hybrid photo ID system to help protect the integrity of future elections.
“I don’t believe voter fraud is happening on a widespread basis, but elections are about perception,” Miller said in an interview Tuesday. “You have to do everything you can to put enough safeguards in the system so that people feel confident in the integrity of the process.”
Miller’s proposal, which he will introduce during the next legislative session, includes linking Nevada’s voter lists with photos from the Department of Motor Vehicles so the voter's picture would be displayed for poll workers before a ballot is cast. Voters who don’t have a driver's license would have their picture taken and entered into the system the first time they vote in person.
Miller modeled his plan on a similar system proposed in Minnesota. That system, however, failed to pass the Legislature.
Miller, a Democrat, has consistently opposed creating a new voter identification card, but has voiced support for requiring an ID to be presented before voting.
Still, his new proposal earned him reprobation from liberal activists, who have long believed that voter identification laws in other states have succeeded in disenfranchising voters.
“Does (Ross Miller) want to be the face of voter suppression in Nevada?” liberal activist Laura Martin tweeted after news of Miller’s proposal broke. “It’s a lot of (money) to spend on a problem that no one can prove exists. You yourself have said voter fraud is hard to find.”
But Miller said his plan will bolster the integrity of the election process without disenfranchising voters. His plan does not require a voter to have a specific identification — such as a driver’s license. Other voter identification laws have been criticized as making it too difficult for some people — including the elderly and disabled — to vote.
“Clearly this is going to take some educational outreach to educate the public on how this will function,” Miller said of his liberal critics. “Any time you make a proposal to amend the election system, people are going to be very tense and very suspect.
“I think people within the progressive community will want to be assured this won’t disenfranchise voters and this is a justifiable expense.”
Miller had no immediate cost estimates for the system.
Perhaps paradoxically, at least one of Miller’s conservative foes praised the proposal.
Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, who sponsored voter identification legislation last year, said Miller’s idea sounds good on its face.
“Obviously I haven’t read the details, but bottom line, I don’t care where the photo ID comes from as long as it is a valid photo,” Hansen said. “It solves the problem.”
“Of course, coming from Ross I’m somewhat suspicious,” Hansen added.
“But I applaud him. I love it when Democrats become conservative Republicans at least temporarily.”