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After takeover, Nevada GOPers ready voter ID

With the GOP now in full control in Nevada, Republican lawmakers are readying voter ID bills for early next year, the incoming secretary of state tells msnbc.
People cast their ballots in Carson City, Nev., on Nov. 4, 2014.
People cast their ballots in Carson City, Nev., on Nov. 4, 2014.

Yet another Republican-controlled state is looking to impose a voter ID law just in time for the 2016 elections.

GOP state lawmakers in Nevada are readying ID bills for early next year, Secretary of State-Elect Barbara Cegavske told msnbc in an interview. Cegavske said she knew of two separate bills that might end up being merged together.

“They’re writing them now,” said Cegavske, a Republican and a supporter of voter ID. “It just depends on how soon they get them in.”

Last week, Republicans took full control of state government for the first time since 1929, meaning a voter ID bill would likely have a strong chance of passing. Governor Brian Sandoval has said in the past he supports voter ID.

The GOP takeover also has raised fears of a broader rightward shift for the state, on everything from immigration to Stand Your Ground laws.

Although Nevada's session doesn't begin until February, Cegavske said the bills could appear on a "placeholder" list of upcoming measures as early as next month, indicating their high priority for Republican lawmakers.

A voter ID proposal from the outgoing secretary of state, Democrat Ross Miller, died in the legislature last year. It would have allowed voters to have their photos taken at the polls if they lacked ID. This year, Sharron Angle, the Republican tea party favorite who challenged Sen. Harry Reid for his Senate seat in 2010, led an effort to impose a voter ID requirement through a ballot initiative, but failed to gather enough signatures.

RELATED: Texas sees surge of disenfranchised voters

Over the last decade, Nevada has shifted from red to purple, driven by a massive influx of Hispanic voters, especially in the fast-growing Las Vegas region. President Obama won the state in 2008 and 2012, after it went twice for President George W. Bush.

Last week, Cegavske, a state senator, beat Democrat Kate Marshall in a tight race to become the Silver State’s next top elections official. iVote, a Democratic group focused on secretary of state races, had run ads backing Marshall.

Tod Story, the executive director of the ACLU of Nevada, said his group had met with Cegavske during the campaign, in part to express its opposition to voter ID.

"Voter ID requirements significantly undermine the participation of lower-income, elderly, and minority voters," said Story. "And we need to work to ensure that every individual who’s eligible to vote can exercise that right." 

Cegavske said she’d only support a bill if it didn’t restrict access to the polls—“we want to make sure nobody’s disenfranchised”—but added that she was confident Nevada could get IDs to those who need them.

“We do have a fund in our DMV that provides for the homeless, which is I think very helpful,” she said. “And there are organizations that help seniors out. So I don’t think we’d be a state that would struggle.”

Could she point to examples of voter fraud in the state that an ID law might have prevented?

“I think the biggest concern that most people have is the absentee ballots,” Cegavske said. “I’ve had people that have reported that they’ve had family members that are deceased that they found out had voted.”

Cegavske also mentioned a 2008 controversy in which the now-defunct community group ACORN turned in fraudulent voter registration forms—something that didn’t lead to any documented fraudulent votes being cast, and wouldn’t have been stopped by voter ID.

“I think it’s a way to ensure the integrity of elections,” she said. “Just to make sure that everything is good.”

Cegavske said she didn’t see why showing ID should be controversial.

“To be honest, every time I’ve gone, I’ve shown my identification," she 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.”

And she echoed a common argument made by ID supporters: “You have to have identification for any of the social agencies that you get either food stamps or everything from,” Cegavske said. “You have to have identification for everything—driving, you name it.”

In recent years, several Republican-controlled states including Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Georgia, Kansas, Indiana and Tennessee have passed voter ID laws. ID laws in Pennsylvania and Arkansas have been struck down by courts. Texas's law, in place for the first time in a major election last week, may have disenfranchised a significant number of voters, though it's too soon to know the number.