LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada’s secretary of state has launched a voter fraud investigation, claiming the Department of Motor Vehicles may have inadvertently added a number of people to the voter rolls who were not citizens in the last presidential election.
Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske made the announcement in a letter Friday evening to the state DMV director, Terri Albertson.
Albertson hit back Saturday, in a response letter back to Cegavske that read in part: “Your letter comes as a complete surprise as you and your office have reviewed, contributed to, and approved the processes you are expressing concerns about.”
Cegavske, the state’s top election official, admonished the DMV in her initial letter, claiming DMV workers offered and accepted voter registration materials from customers seeking driver’s licenses and identification cards, even if the customers presented a Green Card indicating they were not citizens.
Nevada law allows people to register to vote when they’re applying for driver’s licenses and identification cards through the DMV. The DMV then forwards the voter registration information to the county elections department for processing.
Cegavske said DMV workers being told to accept voter registration information from all customers is a misinterpretation of the law. She ordered the DMV to stop the practice.
“Please take appropriate corrective action, as we have reason to believe that non-citizens have unlawfully registered to vote in Nevada as a direct result of DMV’s practices,” Cegavske wrote.
Albertson responded that her agency will consult attorneys on the matter but that the law requires the DMV to forward the registration information no matter how incomplete it may be, because it is the state’s election officials who ultimately assess voter eligibility. The DMV said its workers do, however, flag cases for further review when eligibility is questioned.
Cegavske also said in a statement that her office “received verifiable evidence of potential illegal votes cast” but didn’t identify which county or counties the evidence came from, and how many votes it implicates. Cegavske said the investigation is in the beginning stages but reiterated that the office has confirmed people who were not citizens voted in the election and that there were people who were ineligible — and didn’t vote — but still appeared on the voter rolls.
“The integrity of the entire election process, from voter registration to the casting of ballots, is always my number one concern,” Cegavske said.
A representative for Gov. Brian Sandoval couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
The secretary of state’s office is now seeking records from the DMV as part of the investigation. All 17 county clerks in Nevada were also notified with a copy of the DMV letter.
“The letter came as a complete surprise,” said Joe Gloria, the Clark County Registrar of Voters.
Gloria said Saturday he is not aware of any voter fraud allegations in Nevada’s most populated county, which includes Las Vegas. Nearly 1.2 million people in Nevada were registered to vote in Clark County as of November 2016, which amounts to more than 70 percent of all voters across the entire state, according to state records.
Gloria said the secretary of state’s office since February has requested and received information from Clark County but that there wasn’t a hint of this voter fraud investigation.
“They haven’t provided me with any information,” Gloria said.
Cegavske is a Las Vegas Republican who spent 18 years in the Nevada Legislature before being elected secretary of state. She took office in 2015 as the state’s top election official and has pushed for a law requiring photo identification to vote.
Last November, Cegavske reported that more than 1.1 million of the state’s nearly 1.5 million active registered voters cast ballots in the election. Nevada favored Democrat Hillary Clinton, by 48 percent, to 46 percent for now President Donald Trump.