CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Adopting a proposed “motor voter” law in Nevada to register eligible people to vote when they apply for a driver’s license or other state identification card could cost the state as much as $5 million, state analysts said in a long overdue report released Tuesday.
Some state officials foresee a much lower price tag for the program, which is projected to enroll at least 120,000 voters in the first year.
Under a 2016 voter-initiated petition, Nevadans would be registered to vote through the Department of Motor Vehicles unless they opt out. The petition also calls for the voter rolls to be updated when people renew driver’s licenses or otherwise update their information with the DMV.
In the report filed six months late, fiscal analysts at the Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau estimated that if the program becomes law, it would cost a minimum of $90,000 if no changes are made to state and local computer systems. It could cost up to $221,000 to enhance those systems or $5 million if the state decided to implement a new registration database.
DMV Director Terri Albertson, however, told lawmakers at a Tuesday hearing on the proposal that she believes existing infrastructure would work well to register people through the DMV. The financial report says preparing that system for the task could cost as little as $110,000.
On top of startup charges, the annual cost of DMV applications could increase slightly when updated to include a section for people to decline voter registration.
The DMV or local governments would also need to require affidavits to facilitate the registration of anyone without an ID or Social Security number when registering.
The analysts drew conclusions from data provided by county registrars, the DMV and the secretary of state’s office last year.
The report was initially due in mid-August, when election reform activists filed the petition with the state and began collecting signatures. More than 250,000 people signed the petition.
Bureau Director Rick Combs said he “messed up” and let the legally mandated appraisal fall off his radar. The bureau is also responsible for writing lawmakers’ bills and began drafting hundreds of them in the fall, which Combs said also contributed to the delay.
The financial impact report was released hours ahead of the petition’s first legislative hearing.
Clark County Registrar of Voters Joseph Gloria said his office has estimated that, under the automatic system, about 120,000 people would be registered to vote for the first time or taken off the inactive file in the first year in that county, which includes Las Vegas.
Opponents of automated registration argue it would be ripe for errors, fraud and hacking. Some say people have a personal responsibility to register themselves.
Six states and the District of Columbia have similar so-called motor voter policies, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.
Oregon became the first state to enact such a law in 2015. State officials said in October the system registered roughly 250,000 new Oregon voters when they renewed their driver’s licenses.