Nevada elections chief now says three voted illegally, but questions linger

Nevada’s top elections official has offered a few more details about her claim that non-citizens voted in last year’s election. But she’s left plenty of questions unanswered.

Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske’s office said in a statement Wednesday that in March, the Department of Motor Vehicles handed over a list of just over 100 people who presented evidence of non-citizenship while at the DMV, then filled out a voter registration form. The DMV determined that 21 of these people voted in the November general election, the statement said.

“Based upon the information obtained to date, we have evidence that three non-citizens illegally registered and voted in Clark County in the last election,” the statement added.

What the difference is between the three non-citizens said to have voted “illegally” in Clark County and the other 18 non-citizens statewide found to have registered and voted isn’t made clear in the statement. Some of them may have become citizens between the time they filled out the application and voted.

A spokesman for Cegavske didn’t respond to The Daily Democracy’s request to clarify, though he had forwarded us the statement.

As we reported earlier this week, Cegavske first divulged that some non-citizens had voted last fall — though she didn’t specify how many — in a letter to the DMV sent Friday and released to a friendly newspaper. In that letter, she blamed the DMV for letting non-citizens register, directing the agency to “please take appropriate corrective action.”

But DMV director Terri Albertson pointed out in response that federal law requires the agency to forward all voter registrations to elections officials to determine their validity. And Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, said he believed the DMV was following the correct procedures.

Albertson also wrote that for the last year, the DMV has been working with Cegavske’s office, other state officials, and voting rights advocates to streamline the voter registration process at the DMV so as to ensure Nevada is in compliance with the National Voter Registration Act. A final agreement was announced last month.

The Wednesday statement didn’t explain why Cegavske last week blamed the DMV for the non-citizen registrations and voting, though it shied away from repeating the charge. It also didn’t say whether Cegavske’s office bears any responsibility in the episode.

We didn’t get a response from the Cegavske spokesman to those questions, either.

But the issue of blame isn’t just finger-pointing. The spat comes a few weeks after Sandoval vetoed a bill that would have established automatic voter registration (AVR) through the DMV, saying it could lead to ineligible voters being put on the rolls. Nationwide, Republicans have generally opposed automatic voter registration and Democrats have generally supported it.

Because the bill started as a citizen initiative, Sandoval’s veto means it will go before voters on the 2018 ballot. So the question of the DMV’s handling of its voter registration functions is very much a live political issue. And anything that, fairly or not, undermines public confidence in the DMV’s ability to keep ineligible voters off the rolls could make voters less likely to approve AVR, a policy with the potential to  vastly expand access to voter registration.

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