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Did People Vote Illegally In Nevada?

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Last week, Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske made some explosive charges. She said at least three people who are not U-S citizens were able to register to vote in the 2016 election – and, then, voted.

Cegavske has given no evidence of her charge – not even to Governor Brian Sandoval and the leaders of the Nevada Legislature. The issue seems to be certain non-citizens filled out forms at the Department of Motor Vehicles to register to vote, but it gets cloudy from there.

To help us clear some of the fog is Amy Rose, legal director for the ACLU of Nevada and Joe Gloria, the registrar of voters for Clark County. KNPR News asked Secretary of State Cegavske to take part in this discussion, and she was unable to join us. 

According to Rose, when someone fills out a form to register to vote through the DMV, and signs it indicating they are citizens, the department must send the form along to the Secretary of State's office. The DMV cannot determine who is a citizen and who is not. 

“At the end of the day, the Secretary of State is our chief election official and she’s responsible for making sure people are eligible to vote,” Rose said.

She said the DMV, the Secretary of State's office and the ACLU have been working together for more than a year to get Nevada in line with the National Voter Registration Act, which outlines the procedures for voter registration through the DMV. 

Joe Gloria said his office can confirm a person's Social Security number is correct but there is not one place to double check a person's legal status.

“There is no database that I know of that we can bump the names of our voters on to determine whether or not they’re a citizen,” he said.

He said it is up to the voter to tell the election department that they're citizens, by signing the voter registration form. If there is something about the registration that raises concerns, the DMV will tell the registrar's office and that office will give the person a second chance to confirm that they are a citizen. 

Rose said the penalties for registering to vote when you are not a citizen and voting when you are not a citizen are severe, which is why she said it is rare that people actually do that. She said people register to vote illegally by accident because they don't understand the process or they believe their legal status has changed. 

Rose is surprised that Cegavske's allegations have surfaced when they did and she is not sure why they've come out now. 

“Of course, we would be concerned if someone is trying to register to vote if they’re not eligible to vote, but I think in this circumstance I think it is important to just get some more information about what’s going on about what’s happening and see what the process is that the Secretary of State is concerned about.”

Rose said the ACLU would fight efforts to use this investigation to push for voter identification laws or documentary proof of citizenship.

Amy Rose, legal director, ACLU of Nevada; Joe Gloria, the registrar of voters, Clark County 

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(EDITOR'S NOTE: Carrie Kaufman no longer works for KNPR News. She left in April 2018)