CARSON CITY, NV – On Thursday, February 20, 2014 the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee) filed a challenge to the “Voter ID Initiative,” a measure which seeks to amend the Nevada Constitution to require voters to present photographic proof of identity before casting a ballot. The lawsuit, Rosati, et al. v. Our Vote Nevada PAC, was filed in the First Judicial District Court for the State of Nevada.
The attempt to amend the Nevada Constitution through an initiative petition comes with an important responsibly: to clearly explain to voters what an initiative will do. The ACLU of Nevada and the Lawyers’ Committee reviewed the description of effect for the Voter ID Initiative and found it misleading and confusing.
As emphasized in the complaint, the Voter ID Initiative will impose significant costs on the State of Nevada, likely to be in the millions of dollars, but the description of effect for the initiative does not mention any costs.
“The Voter ID Initiative is at odds with the fundamental right to vote. Voter identification requirements create a real barrier for Nevadans who do not have government-issued photo identification, and a disproportionate number of these Nevadans are low-income, racial and ethnic minorities, and elderly,” said Tod Story, ACLU of Nevada Executive Director. “Additionally, this initiative would force an unfunded mandate of an unknown amount on taxpayers, thus requiring that taxes be raised solely to impose a cumbersome burden on voters exercising their constitutional right to vote in the Silver State.”
The initiative leaves the details of the voter identification scheme to the legislature, but presumably eligible voters would need to present some proof of their identity to qualify for a voter identification card and would need to go in person to the “government entity” to apply for a card.
“The Voter ID Initiative misleads voters by saying there would be no cost for the voter identification cards, but there are many unseen costs of this ‘free’ card. Voters would have to travel at their own expense every time they change their names or address to get a new card, potentially resulting in lost wages. They would also need to present documents to prove their identity, which they might have to pay to obtain. These are very real obstacles at a very real cost for any Nevadan, especially those with limited resources and limited access to transportation,” said Staci Pratt, ACLU of Nevada Legal Director.
“Nevada voters deserve accurate information when they are presented with a petition to lock a major voting restriction into the State Constitution”, said Bob Kengle, Co-Director, Voting Rights Project, Lawyers’ Committee. “All voters – and especially those voters who lack a government-issued photo identification – should know what the consequences of their support for this initiative would represent.”
About the ACLU of Nevada:
The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to the defense and advancement of civil liberties and civil rights for all people in Nevada. Grounded in the principles of liberty, justice, democracy, and equality, we engage in litigation, education, and advocacy on behalf of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. To learn more about the ACLU of Nevada, visit www.aclunv.org.
About the Lawyers’ Committee:
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. We celebrated our 50th anniversary in 2013 and continue our quest of “Moving America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers' Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of fair housing and fair lending; community development; employment; voting; education and environmental justice. For more information about the Lawyers’ Committee, visit www.lawyerscommittee.org.