Editorial: Same-day voter registration invites fraud

Progressives are always clamoring to make it easier to vote. To that end Democratic state Sen. James Ohrenschall of Las Vegas has introduced Senate Bill 123 that, among other things, would allow people to register to vote on Election Day.

“The purpose of SB123 is to make it more feasible for people to be part of the government of ourselves, by making it easier to register to vote, and offer a few more options to vote during the early voting period,” Ohrenschall said during a recent hearing on his bill, according to The Nevada Independent.

Election officials testified that the bill will cost millions of dollars to implement and take years to adequately change the system to comply.

Additionally, Clark County Registrar Joe Gloria warned, “If same-day registration process is handled with a paper form, other than signing an affidavit affirming that the voter has not already voted in the election, there can be no guarantee that the voter has not registered to vote at another location on Election Day. Not until after the election will clerks have the ability to identify that the voter has not voted at another site, which is problematic.”

Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, calls same-day voter registration a prescription for fraud and says it does almost nothing to increase voter participation.

“Allowing a voter to both register and vote on Election Day makes it nearly impossible to prevent duplicate votes in different areas or to verify the accuracy of any information provided by a voter,” von Spakovsky writes. “Election officials are unable to check the authenticity of a registration or the eligibility and qualifications of a registrant by comparing the registration information to other state and federal databases that provide information not just on identity, but also on citizenship status and whether the individual in question is a felon whose voting rights have been suspended. Since Election Day registrants cast a regular ballot, even if election officials determine that the registration was invalid after the election, they have no means of discounting the ballot.”

He notes that Wisconsin allows same-day registration and after a comprehensive investigation of voter fraud in the 2004 election, the Milwaukee Police Department concluded that the “one thing that could eliminate a large percentage of fraud or the appearance of fraudulent voting in any given Election is the elimination of the On-Site or Same-Day voter registration system.”

Von Spakovsky also points out that Oregon dumped its same-day registration law after a cult tried to take over a county by planning to bring in large numbers of nonresidents, many of them homeless, to flood the polls with ineligible voters.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said at a Heritage Foundation meeting in 2013 that voters can make up names and addresses and go from poll to poll to vote, and there is no automated system that can stop such nefarious deeds.

While Election Day registration invites fraud, it does little to actually increase turnout.

In 2008, according to von Spakovsky, four of the eight states with same-day registration reported lower turnout than in 2004. The state with the largest decrease in turnout in 2008 was Maine, which also has Election Day registration.

“It has always been abundantly clear that, after four decades of making it easier to vote and having turnout decline (among most groups) except for elections driven by fear and anger,” wrote Curtis Gans of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate in 2008, “the central issue governing turnout is not procedure but motivation. These new procedures, except for Election Day registration for some states, don’t help turnout and pose some discrete dangers for American democracy.”

In Nevada one can already register online or at the DMV or any county elections office.

The risks of fraud due to Election Day registration far outweigh any convenience for those too lazy or disinterested to register to vote by the deadline before each election.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Judge rules Nevada press shield law does not cover blogger

There is no such thing as a credentialed or card-carrying journalist. Unlike too many jobs in Nevada and the U.S. there is no government licensing of journalists. If you talk to two people you are a gossip. If you talk to three you are a journalist.

But a Carson City judge apparently thinks the Nevada press shield law created the concept of a licensed journalist.

Normally those in the press don’t seek any privilege not accorded any other citizen, but by the very nature of the job — showing up at fires and car crashes, attending public meetings, poking into nooks and crannies of government and society, asking questions and quoting people — there needed to be a means to keep the press independent and not dragged into court or depositions every other week.

Sam Toll

That’s the rationale behind the state press shield law. It prohibits dragging members of the Fourth Estate in for a third degree interrogation. Otherwise, there would be little incentive for people to talk to reporters, because that reporter could be forced to testify against them.

The law says, “No reporter, former reporter or editorial employee of any newspaper, periodical or press association or employee of any radio or television station may be required to disclose any published or unpublished information obtained or prepared by such person in such person’s professional capacity in gathering, receiving or processing information for communication to the public, or the source of any information procured or obtained by such person, in any legal proceeding …”

The devil is in the details. The law predates the blogosphere.

This week Judge James Wilson Jr. ordered Sam Toll, editor of The Storey Teller blog, to disclose his sources for stories about a Storey County commissioner, who is suing Toll for defamation, according to USA Today.

It seems the stories were written in the months before Toll joined the Nevada Press Association.

One of Toll’s attorneys issued a statement saying, “Such a ruling undermines the protection of fundamental Constitutional principles of freedom of speech and of the press and stifles the free flow of information that is essential for any free society to exist.”

Whether Toll is press or not, he still has the right of free speech. Perhaps, he should have to face his accuser but should he be required to drag others into the fray?

The state Supreme Court has twice upheld the shield law as serving an important function for the citizenry.

When the First Amendment was written no one could have imagined radio and television, but they came under the protection of the “press.” Shouldn’t bloggers also be allowed to don the mantle?

Justice Myron Leavitt opined in a case in 2000 in which a plaintiff tried to force a Las Vegas newspaper reporter to reveal his sources: “Nevada’s news shield statute serves an important public interest and provides absolute protection against compelled disclosure to ensure that through the press, the public is able to make informed political, social and economic decisions.”

In 2016 a Clark County judge interpreted the shield law differently, denying lawyers request to review a film maker’s unpublished notes and video interviews with a witness in a criminal case.

The ruling, according to a Las Vegas newspaper, marked the first time a Nevada judge extended the press privilege beyond institutional reporter. “This is the first time any court in Nevada has looked at that,” the film maker’s attorney was quoted as saying. “It is a good victory for all information gatherers in the state.”

Let’s hope this current case is appealed and a similar outcome is reached. Or, perhaps, the lawmakers in Carson City could update the law.

The Nevada Independent has posted a copy of the judge’s ruling.

Editorial: Harry-the-pot calls Donald-the-kettle black

Former Nevada Democratic Sen. and Senate majority leader Harry Reid appears to be on what one might suspect is a farewell media tour. Though he never was too cozy with the media, Reid has in recent weeks, while being treated for pancreatic cancer, granted lengthy interviews with The New York Times Magazine, the Las Vegas public radio station and the editor of the contribution-funded news and commentary website The Nevada Independent.

While most of the buzz has been about his harsh criticism of President Trump, calling him amoral, he also has been downright unrepentant about his own deeds over the years that pushed the boundaries of propriety.

In the Times article he was quoted as saying, “Trump is an interesting person. He is not immoral but is amoral. Amoral is when you shoot someone in the head, it doesn’t make a difference. No conscience.”

Reid went on to say, “I think he is without question the worst president we’ve ever had. … We’ve had some bad ones, and there’s not even a close second to him. … He’ll lie. He’ll cheat. You can’t reason with him.”

Harry Reid (NYT pix)

In the radio interview he doubled down, saying, “What amoral means is this: immoral is you do things and you feel bad about it. … If you are amoral, you have no conscience,” adding, “I didn’t use the word as a throwaway word. I used the word because I meant it.”

The Nevada Indy editor described Reid as seeming “positively giddy that his use of the word ‘amoral’ to describe Trump … had generated so many Google searches for the definition — 4,300, he beamed.”

Without a hint of irony the magazine story recounted how Reid in 2012, with no proof to back it up, falsely claimed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney had not paid any income taxes in a decade. He later told CNN by way of justification, “I don’t regret it at all. Romney didn’t win, did he?”

The Indy even quotes Reid as being boastful about using the power of his office to badger bankers into lending money for MGM Resorts to finish its stalled City Center project and intimidating hedge fund managers into pulling out of financing coal-fired power plants near Ely that cost hundreds of jobs.

“No one in their right mind would have done what I did ….” the 79-year-old Reid said. “No one would have done that … but it paid off.”

This was the same Reid who twisted arms at Immigration and Customs Enforcement to reverse a decision that was blocking visas for Chinese investors in a Las Vegas casino with ties to Reid’s son Rory.

And yes, the same Reid who in 1998 invested $400,000 in a parcel of land in Las Vegas, but transferred the land to another party three years later for the purchase price, according to records. Yet, when the land sold in 2004 he pocketed $1.1 million. Reid aides dismissed the earlier deal as a “technical” transfer.

Sometimes his efforts fell short. After Reid acquired 160 acres in Bullhead City, Ariz., the land was expected to increase in value after Reid passed a bill to spend $20 million to build a bridge over the Colorado River nearby, but the bridge was never built.

No need to mention one of Reid’s backers went to prison for illegally bundling contributions to Reid.

On the radio Reid also boasted about getting millions in funding to research unidentified flying objects.

“I think it is something we can’t ignore. I personally don’t know if there exist little green men places. I kind of doubt that, but I do believe the information we have indicates we should do a lot more study,” he said, without deigning to mention that much of the secret “research” money went to a Las Vegas crony and campaign contributor.

Reid has a well-earned reputation for being truculent, belligerent, rude, viciously vindictive, antagonistic and downright Machiavellian. His own former press aide once told a reporter Reid looks at a person’s vulnerabilities to “disarm, to endear, to threaten, but most of all to instill fear.”

Perhaps we can file this under the category: It takes one to know one.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

 

‘How?’ is the question left unanswered

The basics of reporting: Who, what, where, when, why and how.

Who: Inmate Scott Dozier.

What: Committed suicide.

Where: In his cell.

When: 4:35 p.m.

Why: Had threatened suicide before.

How: Under investigation.

That’s the “how,” according to the morning newspaper, as reported in the 23rd paragraph of the front page story.

Just about every other news outlet, including The Nevada Independent, reported he was found hanging from a bedsheet tied to an air vent in his cell in Ely State Prison.

Scott Dozier (AP pix)

How much of a bargain are those free electric car recharging stations in rural Nevada?

The state has released information on just how frequently those rural electric car recharging stations are being used, and it’s not exactly like the lines for gasoline back in the 1970s.

The Nevada Office of Energy reports that drivers have charged their electric vehicles 274 times at the three charging stations built by the state in Beatty, Fallon and Panaca along Highways 95 and 93 since the first one opened in early 2016, according to The Nevada Independent. The donation funded news website reports this usage saved a total equivalent to 395 gallons of gasoline and gave away 3,150 kilowatt-hours of electricity. It was dutifully noted that the usage rate is growing.

The costs of three charging stations which give away the power — dubbed the Electric Highway — has been a moving target. When the first opened in Beatty in March 2016 the Office of Energy said each would cost $15,000 and the would be paid for taxpayers and the ratepayers of NV Energy and Valley Electric Association. In the summer of 2015 press accounts said each would cost $30,000. A June 2017 story in the Las Vegas newspaper quoted a spokesman for the governor as saying the cost of each station would range from $85,000 to $250,000, but he assured its readers “none of that comes from taxpayer dollars. The office is funding its portion of costs with federal grant money, and the electric utility covers the rest.” And we thought federal grant money came from taxpayers.

According to the Office of Energy, NV Energy put up $30,000 in an upfront cost abatement payment. It also reports NV Energy is putting out $30,000 for three stations and Valley Electric $15,000 for one.

Another station opened a month ago in Hawthorne. No usage for that outpost was mentioned yet. The press release announcing the opening was bereft of dollar signs.

The first three electric car charging stations have been open an average of about 540 days. Thus, according the Office of Energy, they are used about once every two days.

Taking the low-ball cost per station of $15,000 each that means the 395 gallons saved cost $114 per gallon in capital outlay alone, never mind maintenance and operating costs. The high-end of $250,000 per station translates to $1,900 per gallon.

Using the current retail power cost of about 11 cents per kWh, the stations have given electric car drivers less than $350 worth of power over two years. Now there’s a bargain.

The NVIndy website said Gov. Brian Sandoval sent it an email statement saying he was “encouraged” by the progress of the project.

“When the entire route is complete, range anxiety will be significantly reduced, giving more travelers the comfort required to travel between Reno and Las Vegas,” the statement reportedly said. “Moreover, as the number of electric cars increases, I am confident even more travelers will utilize the electric highway.”

When that Beatty charging station opened, Sandoval was on hand demonstrate by charging up a Ford Focus from the state Department of Transportation fleet in Las Vegas. Since the car had a range of only 76 miles, it had to be hauled to the ceremony from Las Vegas. Most of the Beatty charging stations took four hours to recharge, though a couple could do an 80 percent recharge in half an hour.

According to that 2017 Las Vegas newspaper account, a spokesman for the governor said the office has identified 24 sites along five traffic corridors “where EV charging stations make sense.”

Depends on what one means by make sense?

Governor announces Nevada Electric Highway (Photo from governor’s office)

 

 

 

Another shoe drops on Kihuen

Just hours before the Mesquite Local News published an editorial calling for Rep. Ruben Kihuen to resign due to his inability to continue to serve his constituents because of his wild accusations against Democratic Party leadership, The Nevada Independent posted online a story about a Carson City lobbyist making strikingly similar allegations against Kihuen as those reported earlier by BuzzFeed.

The anonymous woman told the online, contribution-funded news outlet that during the 2015 legislative session then-state Sen. Kihuen touched her thighs or buttocks on three separate occasions without her consent and sent her hundreds of sexually suggestive text messages, including repeated requests to spend the night with her. She said she repeatedly denied his requests.

The news account was accompanied by a lengthy blog from the site’s editor, Jon Ralston, explaining how the story was reported and why the woman was granted anonymity.

“I don’t think Ruben thinks what he did was wrong,” the news story quotes the woman as saying. “Like, I think he just thought he was playing around, which, I don’t think he realized the position he probably put people in.”

The Independent reported that it sent Kihuen’s office a list of questions about the woman’s claims. In reply, Kihuen, 37 and unmarried, did not confirm or deny anything.

“During my ten years in the Legislature, I dated several different women. Out of respect for their privacy, I won’t discuss my communications or any other details of those relationships,” the Independent quoted from Kihuen’s statement, though the woman said she never dated Kihuen.

“I never went over to his house. I never kissed him. I don’t know what his definition of dating is, but usually dating is a mutual decision between two people to do things alone, which I never, ever did with him,” she told the news outlet.

According to BuzzFeed, a female Kihuen campaign staffer quit in April 2016 shortly after the candidate started propositioning her for dates and sex despite her repeated rejections and twice touched her thighs without her consent.

The woman said the propositions became more frequent and more aggressive and Kihuen asked her if she had ever “cheated on her boyfriend.” She said the candidate offered to get them a hotel room together while campaigning and she told BuzzFeed, “I said ‘no’ very firmly and he just laughed at me. It was humiliating.”

According to the Mesquite newspaper editorial, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Ben Ray Lujan, a New Mexico congressman, both called on Kihuen to step down.

 

But first-term Rep. Kihuen, a former aide to Sen. Harry Reid who has largely held political patronage jobs, threw mud on the leadership, saying, “I do find it interesting that the DCCC, Leader [Nancy] Pelosi and Chairman Ben Ray Lujan — they knew about these allegations last year. They looked into them. They didn’t find anything, and they continued investing millions of dollars in my campaign. They went out there and campaigned for me.”

Spokesmen for Pelosi and Lujan immediately denied the claim.

Fellow Nevada Democratic Reps. Dina Titus and Jacky Rosen have called for Kihuen to leave.

The editorial said Kihuen has turned himself into a pariah in his own party, but now there is another accuser with a remarkably similar tale of callow, vulgar and socially unacceptable misbehavior.

 

A little difference of opinions over covering the news

On his contribution-financed news website, The Nevada Independent, editor Jon Ralston posted a commentary, under the headline “Cutting off The Indy spites the public we serve,” this week complaining about public officials refusing to talk to his reporters — specifically state Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, Attorney General Adam Laxalt and U.S. Sen. Dean Heller.

The piece quoted a Roberson aide as texting a reporter: “Senator Roberson only provides commentary to reputable news outlets. He does not consider The Nevada Independent as such.”

At one point Ralston suggested that elected officials refusing to talk to certain reporters was tantamount to violating public records laws.

He proclaimed:

“This is not about me or our team of journalists whining about access. This is about public officials, staffers, and agencies depriving the public of important information, context and nuance. They are not hurting me or The Indy. They are sullying the civic fabric by preventing access to information that drives essential public dialogue.

“Finally, a word on a laughable claim. Roberson, Laxalt and Heller have whispered that I am a Democratic partisan. Not only is that not so, but it is low to insinuate and patently false to say that any of our news stories have a partisan slant. Indeed, anyone who knows any of our reporters knows none of them would stand for me trying to inject my bias into their stories, even if I tried, which I never have and never would.”

 

In the online-no-love-lost-between-rivals there came a couple of rejoinders.

Victor Joecks, a conservative Review-Journal columnist, responded on Twitter with this critique: “Free advice: Conflating a govt official not responding to a reporter’s request for comment with a govt official not answering a public information request is one of the reasons folks think you’re a hack and just out to smear them.”

But conservative blogger Chuck Muth unleashed a 1,200-word diatribe that had to leave a welt.

Muth pointed that two days earlier Ralston had penned a screed in which he outlined the standards The Nevada Independent would use to cover elections. Ralston said that “there is no public benefit in covering candidates who have clearly demonstrated they are unfit for public office or who have zero chance of getting elected no matter what coverage they get.”

To which Muth replied, “In short, Blogger Jon will subjectively decide who is a credible candidate worthy of attention and who isn’t.”

Muth twisted the knife:

It seems a number of candidates and elected officials don’t consider the Ralston Rag to be a credible news organization and have been refusing to give his newsblog the time of day.

Indeed, Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson is quoted as saying he only “provides commentary to reputable news outlets” and “does not consider The Nevada Independent as such.”

In other words, Roberson is treating Ralston the exact same way Ralston, just two days earlier, announced he’ll be treating certain candidates based on credibility.  Shoe on the other foot.  Sauce for the goose.

Ralston went on to spew forth his venom at Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt and U.S. Sen. Dean Heller for also blowing off interview requests from the Ralston Rag, whining that such blacklisting “is not just puerile (Jon loves to use fancy words to appear smarter than everyone else); it’s unethical and unconscionable.”