Geoff Dornan

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June 14, 2012
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Statewide voter turnout averages 19 percent

Statewide turnout for the 2012 primaries was a pathetic 18.9 percent.

According to the secretary of state's website, just 199,797 of the 1,058,808 active voters in the state went to the polls Tuesday.

The percentage was dragged down dramatically by a 16.2 percent turnout in Clark County, where 72 percent of Nevada residents live.

Scott Gilles, elections deputy for the secretary of state's office, said that there just weren't races statewide that drew voters to the polls.

"What I've seen in past elections is that races really drive turnout," he said.

He compared this year's numbers and those from two years ago when the GOP primary featured two major battles: Sharron Angle against Sue Lowden for U.S. Senate and Jim Gibbons versus Brian Sandoval for governor. GOP turnout in 2010, he said, was on the order of 45 percent because of those races.

Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover drew the same conclusion: "There was nothing to vote for."

He said the City Center project controversy probably helped draw more voters to Carson City's board of supervisors races but that the biggest contest, the U.S. Senate race, had lopsided primaries with incumbent Dean Heller and challenger Shelley Berkley winning easily.

He said, however, that he finds it telling that, statewide, Berkley got fewer votes than Heller even though Democrats have a significant registration advantage.

The turnout wasn't, however, a record low. In fact, the 2008 primary, also a presidential year, drew an even smaller percentage of voters at 17.9.

Carson City and the state's rural counties drew voters to the polls at much higher levels than Clark this year.

Even Washoe County beat the statewide turnout, coming in just a fraction under 20 percent with a 43,497 turnout.

The champion for the night was Eureka County where 56.2 percent of those registered voted. That, however, only totals 581 voters.

After Eureka, nine Nevada counties were above 30 percent, including Carson City, which reported 34.2 percent and 7,702 casting ballots Tuesday.

The others on that list are Churchill (34.9 percent), Douglas (31.6 percent), Humboldt (39.3 percent), Lincoln (32.4 percent), Mineral (35.4 percent), Pershing (38.8 percent), Storey (38.8 percent) and White Pine (34.2 percent). But the total number of votes they represent is just 19,118.

The remaining counties, Elko, Esmeralda, Lander, Lyon and Nye, were all above 20 percent. They account for 16,977 of the total ballots cast Tuesday.

Altogether, 117,877 or 59 percent of those voters cast ballots early or absentee. Just 81,920 went to the polls Tuesday.

The shift to early and absentee voting has been steady since early voting was introduced in 1995. Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover said the early vote option is especially popular with seniors in part because they can pick a time when they don't have to wait in line.

In Carson City, the margin was similar with just under 58 percent voting before Tuesday.

Because of the extremely weak turnout Tuesday, Clark County reported nearly 64 percent voted early or absentee.

The last time early and absentee ballots counted for less than half the total vote was the 2006 primary.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Jun 14, 2012 04:00AM Published Jun 14, 2012 03:56AM Copyright 2012 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.