Nevada Elections Official Clarifies—Somewhat—Mysterious Voter Fraud Claims

Nevada state Senator Barbara Cegavske smiles before a debate against Nevada state treasurer Kate Marshall Friday, Oct. 3, 2014, in Las Vegas. The two are running against each other for Nevada Secretary of State. (AP ... Nevada state Senator Barbara Cegavske smiles before a debate against Nevada state treasurer Kate Marshall Friday, Oct. 3, 2014, in Las Vegas. The two are running against each other for Nevada Secretary of State. (AP Photo/John Locher) MORE LESS
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April 20, 2017 11:03 a.m.

Nevada’s top elections official announced Wednesday that her office has evidence that three non-citizens voted illegally in the 2016 general elections, culminating five days of intense speculation about the case but leaving many questions still unanswered.

News of the claims first emerged last week when Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske accused the state’s DMV of abetting the improper registration of non-citizen voters, setting off a public spat between the two state offices. Voting right advocates have been especially concerned, alleging that Cegavske’s directions to the DMV for how to handle voter registration paperwork would violate federal voting law.

Cegavske sent a letter Friday to DMV Director Terri Albertson demanding that she “cease” the practice of accepting voter registration applications from all DMV customers. Cegavske claimed that DMV was acting inappropriately by allowing ID-seekers to also fill out voter registration forms at driver’s licenses offices even if they had presented a green card. Cegavske’s office apparently discovered the instances of noncitizen voting after combing through a list of people who filled out voter registration forms at the DMV who had “presented evidence of non-citizenship,” according to Wednesday’s statement.

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Albertson shot back at Cegavske in her own letter Saturday that under the National Voter Registration Act, as well as a formal agreement worked out between the state and voting rights groups, the DMV was required to hand over the applications to the state’s election officials regardless of the applicant’s apparent citizenship status, though DMV employees would indicate whether certain applicants warranted a closer look by elections officials.

The public back-and-forth came after the two agencies had worked together for a year with voting rights groups on a so-called Memorandum of Understanding streamlining the paperwork the DMV used to give ID-seekers the opportunity to register to vote. The same voting rights lawyers who worked on the agreement told TPM this week that they agreed with the assessment that if the DMV started making the call on who is eligible to vote, it would be a violation of the National Voter Registration Act. They said it that it should be up to election officials to determine whether applicants were eligible to register to vote.

The statement Wednesday said that Cegavske’s office had last month obtained a list from the DMV of 100 or so people statewide who, when filling out voter registration forms at the DMV, had presented green cards as identification. From that list, it was determined that 21 had voted, the statement said, but in only three of those cases, so far, had the secretary obtained evidence that they were non-citizens illegally voting.

“The Secretary of State will continue to work with the Governor’s office, DMV, and others in Nevada to ensure that all eligible voters in Nevada can participate in our elections, and that our election system has the upmost integrity,” the statement said.

Between Friday’s letter to the DMV and Wednesday’s statement, Cegavske’s office had given no details to the press, the voting rights groups and other state officials about the initial allegations.

“Given the early stages of this investigation, it is inappropriate for us to comment further.  We anticipate we will have additional information about the investigation in the next few months,” Wednesday’s statement said.

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