ACLU Weighing Litigation to Ensure Nevadans' Votes Count

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The Nevada chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is weighing a possible lawsuit to clear up confusion over provisional voting, which for the first time lets voters cast ballots even if their names aren't on the rolls at precinct polling sites.

Richard Siegel, president of the ACLU of Nevada, said Wednesday that provisional voting, mandated by Congress in 2002, will be "a huge disappointment" in this state because it only applies to federal races and not state or local elections.

Congress passed the Help America Vote Act to prevent a repeat of mistakes that marred Florida's 2000 election, when thousands of eligible voters were turned away because their names weren't on voting lists at the polls.

Siegel also said provisional voters must be in a proper polling precinct - and even if they're properly registered their vote won't count if they show up at the wrong location.

The ACLU also is concerned about a new requirement for voters to produce identification if they didn't show identification when they registered or are voting for the first time.

Given the extensive get-out-the-vote efforts and Nevada's rapid growth, Siegel said many new voters may turn out but be dissuaded from voting because of the new requirements.

ACLU lawyers, outside attorneys and representatives of various public-interest groups have been discussing the Nevada situation with an eye toward possible litigation, especially in regard to votes cast at the wrong polling sites, Siegel said.

"At this point, there are only questions: Should there be a challenge? Could a challenge succeed?" he said.

Renee Parker, chief deputy secretary of state, said Siegel is right in saying the provisional voting standards will be a disappointment. She added that her office wanted such voting to apply to all races and not just federal contests, but the state Legislature rejected the broader version.

Parker also said she's confident that election officials throughout the state will take steps to ensure voters get the help they need so that their votes are counted.

Nevadans with questions on where they're supposed to cast ballots should call in advance for answers, and also should bring a driver's license or other form of identification just in case they're asked to produce it, she said.

If some sort of lawsuit is filed, Parker questioned whether it would succeed. She noted states can have standards for their state or local contests that are different than those for federal races.

Election officials "are trying to do the best they can," she added. "Provisional voting is confusing, but I'm not sure how much more we can do."

Voters have until Aug. 17 to register for the Sept. 7 primary or change their information in person at election offices. Saturday is the deadline to register to vote by mail or in locations other than election offices.

Provisional votes will go through a review process after the election. All such ballots must be counted within three days after the election.