Secretary of State Ross Miller vs. The Left

A few weeks after he stunned the Nevada political world, especially elected officials and activists in his own party, with a “visual verification” plan (Don’t call it voter ID!), Secretary of State Ross Miller is in fence-mending mode.

Or explanatory mode.

Or "what I meant to say" mode.

Miller acknowledged on “Ralston Reports” shortly after Review-Journal reporter Ed Vogel broke the story that it was not his most graceful unfurling of a policy initiative (damn media didn’t help). Beyond a few economia here and there, Miler has been savaged by the left, which sees this as some kind of nefarious plot to win over Republicans in his attorney general’s campaign, as well as a seemingly less than cardinal sin: suppress voters.

Now Miller has decided to bring into the state his Minnesota counterpart, who tried a similar idea and failed. And on Dec. 20, he is meeting with progressives who see him as a Benedict Arnold – or at least a triangulating Bill Clinton. “We hope you will join us to let Secretary Miller know that there is no need to bring Voter Suppression to Nevada and that he should reconsider this ill conceived proposal,” progressive activist Derek Washington wrote in an email to Democrats notifying them of the Las Vegas meeting.

The blowback has continued during the last few days from the left, including two members of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. In an op-ed he co-authored in the Reno Gazette-Journal, PLAN boss Bob Fulkerson lacerated Miller. “He should not work to manufacture a problem or issue that simply doesn’t exist,” Fulkerson wrote in a piece that also bears the byline of Judith Browne-Dianis of the Advancement Project.

The issue came up again this afternoon on KSNV’s “The Agenda,” when PLAN’s Howard Watts III competed with liberal commentator Hugh Jackson to eviscerate and mock Miller’s proposal. Watts deemed the law unnecessary and costly. “It’s literally pandering to and reinforcing the message that something’s wrong, Watts said.

That's the issue that concerns me, too. It’s not so much that this will suppress voters; it’s that it’s manna for the kooks. Or, as Jackson put it, “It’s reinforcing the message that something is wrong with the process out here, something is wrong with the system.”

Indeed. Miller may say he is doing this because of polling that shows people fret about the system's integrity and what people have said to him – that he has to be worried about perception. But the perception that may be reinforced by the state’s chief elections officer embracing the idea that fraud may be a problem potentially is much more pernicious.

Miller’s failure to consult progressives and Democratic legislative leaders, a point raised on “The Agenda” by conservative Elizabeth Crum, also caused them to immediately take positions against the idea when confronted by reporters. “Voter ID” is a toxic phrase, whether you call it “visual verification” or anything that sounds more innocuous.

Watts pointed out that a “broad coalition of progressives and conservatives” might have rallied behind Miller if he had simply talked about modernizing the paper system and updating it with an electronic one, as well as making reforms to provisional ballots, which only have federal offices and are given to voters whose identities are in question. Jackson seems to think Miller plans to run TV ads about this in his campaign for attorney general (they were conditional about the AG race; I’m not).

That’s probably not in his plans, even if he were doing this to placate some of the forces of the right and to pre-empt potential opponents Greg Brower and Mark Hutchison. I don't think he ever intended to brag about the idea, just signal to some folks that he was pushing an initiative to deal with what many critics see as a solution in search of a problem.

What’s clear is that Miller has his hands full with his own team. As he prepares to run for the state’s highest law enforcement position, he is seeking to arrest an insurgency that could easily have been avoided.