LAS VEGAS - One of every five registered voters in Clark County - 96,939 residents - have cast their election ballots at shopping malls and supermarkets since early voting started.
The 14-day early voting period, which began Oct. 21. and allows voters to cast ballots in various public locations around the state, ends Friday evening.
The turnout for early voting is on pace to surpass turnout two years ago by 65 percent, election officials said.
By comparison, in the two weeks before the 1998 gubernatorial election, a total of 85,646 residents voted early. Only 46,136 voters cast ballots before Election Day when early voting was introduced countywide in 1996.
The unprecedented early voting turnout, coupled with the 26,294 absentee ballots that already have been returned, account for 22 percent of the county's 553,941 registered voters, said Donna Cardinelli, assistant registrar of voters for Clark County.
''We expected the second week to be busy, but not the first week,'' Cardinelli told the Las Vegas Review-Journal for Tuesday's editions. ''It's a combination of many things. It's a reflection of the population growth. It's a presidential election, and many people in Clark County are getting so acquainted with early voting that this is the only way they will vote.''
Although there are 249,000 registered Democrats compared with about 213,000 registered Republicans in Clark County, the numbers of voters have been about even, said Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax.
Lomax has upped his predicted early voter turnout from 120,000 to 140,000, which represents about 40 percent of all votes that will be cast for the Nov. 7 general election.
The recent flurry of political VIP visits to Nevada might have helped push Clark County voters into action.
Getting out to vote has been part of the message of many of the politicians who have visited the state in the past few weeks, including Democratic and GOP vice presidential nominees Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., and former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney.
Reform Party presidential candidate Pat Buchanan made a stop in Las Vegas on Friday, and Vice President Al Gore visited Las Vegas last month. Four Republican governors stumped for Gov. George W. Bush in Las Vegas last week with Colorado Gov. Bill Owens emphasizing the importance of voting.