(Elizabeth Crum/Nevada News Bureau) – Nevada may finally see greater transparency and accountability in election campaigns due to three landmark bills that arrived on Gov. Sandoval’s desk this week.
Secretary of State Ross Miller unsuccessfully championed the reforms in the two previous legislative sessions. Miller said in testimony before the Legislature in recent months that lawmakers could no longer ignore glaring gaps in the law that were revealed by questionable practices in recent election cycles.
“I’m finally satisfied that Nevada voters will have a clearer picture of who is funding political campaigns in Nevada and, as a result, will be able to make more informed decisions at the ballot box,” Miller said when the bills received final legislative approval.
Miller said that for too long, information about who is spending what to influence campaigns in Nevada has been hidden from the voters by archaic and ambiguous laws.
“At a time when record amounts of money are being spent to elect decision-makers at all levels of government, we owed it to the voters to shed more light on campaign financing practices,” said Miller.
Assembly Bills 81, 82, and 452 address aspects of campaign contribution and expense reporting as well as other sections of election law. If passed, more information to be made available to voters sooner than in the past.
Campaign Finance and Expense Reporting
Candidates for public office would be required to electronically file contribution and expense reports with the Secretary of State’s office. This would enable the creation of database that can be searched by candidate name, contributor name, dollar amounts, and other data.
Campaign contribution and expense reports would also have to be filed at least four days before the start of early voting in primary and general elections.
All Political Action Committees, other committees, and individuals who spend more than $100 on a public communication such as a radio or TV ad, billboard, or mass mailing would have to identify in the communication who paid for it.
In addition, any person or group who spends more than $100 in an attempt to influence the outcome of a Nevada election would have to register with the Secretary of State and file annual contribution and expense reports.
Individuals would now be prohibited from contributing to a PAC with the knowledge and intent that the PAC would contribute that money to a specific candidate if the contribution puts the individual over the authorized limits on contributions to a single candidate.
A foreign national would not be able make contributions to Nevada campaigns, and soliciting, accepting, or receiving any campaign contributions from foreign nationals would be illegal under state law, just as it is under federal law.
Online voter registration would be be expanded from Clark and Washoe Counties to all counties across the state.
A voter registration agency, county clerk or registrar would not be able to knowingly employ a person to register voters if the person had been convicted of a felony involving theft or fraud.
Threatening a person or using intimidation in connection with the registration of voters could constitute a category E felony crime.
Individual minor party candidates could be placed on the ballot only if the party obtains ballot access as already required by law.
Acts of tampering or interfering with or attempting to tamper or interfere with a mechanical voting system or computer program used to count ballots would be punishable as a category B felony.
Requirements to register as a Ballot Advocacy Group (BAG) to support or oppose a ballot question would be deleted from statute. Individuals and organizations would have to register as a Political Action Committee to engage in political activity to support or oppose a ballot question, and the reporting threshold for such groups would be lowered from $10,000 in contributions and/or expenditures to $1,000 during any reporting period.
State holidays would no longer be excluded from the early voting period.
An October, 2009 regulation prohibiting county clerks and registrars from releasing results of statewide and multi-county races until the Secretary of State determines that all polling places are closed and all votes have been cast would be codified.