Voting rights advocates and Nevada officials announced this week that they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding in order to streamline and modernize voter registration opportunities through the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Demos, Project Vote, the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada (ACLUNV), and the law firm Armstrong Teasdale LLP working on behalf of the Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, the League of Women Voters of Nevada, and voter Eleanor Newell held discussions with the office of the Governor, the DMV, and Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske’s office to develop a protocol and timeline for bringing Nevada into compliance with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA).
“Ensuring that the right to vote is accessible to all eligible citizens is fundamental to a healthy democracy,” said Ben Monterroso, Executive Director of Mi Familia Vota Education Fund.
“We commend DMV Director Albertson and Secretary Cegavske for working cooperatively with our organizations to improve the voter registration process,” said Janice Browne, League of Women Voters Nevada.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to have participated in the cooperative efforts that led to this Memorandum of Understanding,” said Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske. “In developing a system that will automatically transmit voter registration information from the Department of Motor Vehicles to county election officials, the parties have significantly improved Nevada’s voter registration process by adding additional efficiencies and safeguards.”
The NVRA, commonly referred to as the federal Motor Voter Law, requires that voter registration opportunities be provided as part of a simultaneous process with a driver’s license or state ID card application, renewal, or change of address. Prior to September 2016, however, the Nevada DMV had asked citizens interested in registering to vote to complete a separate voter registration application, in addition to the driver’s license form, even though much of the requested information was the same.
“The National Voter Registration Act was designed so that driver licensing and voter registration are a simultaneous process in which the customer completes a single form that serves as both a driver’s license application to the DMV and a voter registration document for use by state and local election officials,” said Scott Novakowski, counsel at Demos and an attorney involved in leading the discussions between the interested parties. “According to the plan implemented through the Memorandum of Understanding, DMV customers will be able to register to vote without completing duplicative paperwork.”
The plan proceeds in three phases. In Phase I, which went into effect in late September 2016, the DMV created a new, NVRA-compliant driver’s license application, a new form to report a change of address by mail, and revamped the language and functionality of its online systems for license renewals.
The DMV’s revised driver’s license application includes a voter registration application that the DMV will pre-populate using its printer if the applicant wants to register. If the applicant wants to register, all they have to do is select a political party and sign the application.
“The Memorandum of Understanding makes it significantly easier for Nevadans to register to vote and exercise their constitutional rights to vote and to participate in democracy. This is a win for all Nevadans,” said Amy Rose, Legal Director of the ACLU of Nevada.
Phase II, which was largely implemented in early 2017, resulted in an electronic connection between the DMV’s and the Secretary of State’s computer systems that allows for seamless transfer of voter registration data from the DMV to election officials. Other improvements in Phase II will ensure that any time a change of address is reported to the DMV, that change is also applied to the customer’s voter registration record unless the customer indicates otherwise.
“We are proud to deliver these enhancements to the citizens of Nevada,” said DMV Director Terri Albertson. “The DMV is a critical component in the voter registration process. We are dedicated to providing the service with security and integrity, as well as convenience. While we have accomplished a lot, we are continuing to work on enhancements to the MyDMV Portal, Web, and self-service kiosks. The DMV has invested a significant amount of money and resources to achieve compliance.”
“Ensuring that voters are not left behind when they move is a vital component of NVRA compliance,” said Sarah Brannon, director of the Public Agency Vote Registration program at Project Vote. “Low-income residents, young voters, and people of color are all likely to move more often, and the NVRA was written to ensure that their voter registration would follow them to their new address.”
In addition to modernizing the voter registration process at the DMV, the Secretary of State and DMV will provide all voting and drivers’ license forms in Spanish throughout the state. Under the Voting Rights Act of 1964, only Clark County is currently required to provide election materials and assistance in Spanish and Tagalog.
“The Voting Rights Act requires that all voting information, materials, and assistance available in English also be provided in the languages covered in Clark County, Spanish and Tagalog. The Memorandum of Understanding reflects Nevada’s commitment to those requirements in the voter registration process,” said James Tucker of Armstrong Teasdale LLP.
“As an organization dedicated to building Latino political power by increasing voter registration and civic participation, we are pleased that Nevada’s Latino citizens will be able to access voter registration information in the language in which they are most comfortable,” added Monterroso of Mi Familia Vota Education Fund.
Phase III is a unique opportunity to ensure voter registration in Nevada is fully modernized. The DMV has voluntarily committed to building a state-of-the-art voter registration system as part of the total overhaul of its computer system that is scheduled for completion in 2020.
As implemented by the Memorandum of Understanding, Nevada’s important commitment to voting rights comes after Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, voter Eleanor Newell and the League of Women Voters of Nevada sent letters to Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske and the Nevada DMV in which they detailed the state’s history of noncompliance with the NVRA.