Despite the fact that a Carson City election could be won in the primary, city officials estimate fewer than half of the city's registered voters will turn out for the primary election.
Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover expects about 11,000 of the city's 21,209 active registered voters to cast their ballots in the primary. About 3,500 of those are expected to vote before the Sept. 5 primary, up from 3,300 early voters in the 1998 election.
"In Carson City you can win in the primary," Glover said. "You only need 50 percent plus one vote to win. People wait until the general, but in an election like that the race could be over.
"Early voting sets the tone for the entire primary. The candidate will know almost immediately (after the early vote results are in) whether they'll win or not."
The city opened the courthouse, 885 E. Musser St., to early voters on Saturday. It's the first election from the new courthouse, which was completed last year.
Voters made a steady stream to the courthouse Monday in the city's first week of early voting for the primary. By 5 p.m., 363 residents had voted. Glover said traditionally those who vote early seem to be mostly Republicans and those who are retired.
"I hate crowds," Carl Halliday said. "I just come early, no matter what I'm doing. If you don't vote, you have no say. There should be a penalty for non-voters."
The state decided to allow early voting in 1994. The goal was to make voting more convenient and to get a higher voter turnout.
Many early voters Monday said they like the conveniences of the early voting program, but Glover said the same number of people are voting regardless of the convenience.
"It changed the patterns of how people voted," he said. "Many of those who vote early used to do it by absentee ballot.
Glover anticipates about 80 percent of Carson's voters, between 16,000 and 18,000, will turnout for the general election Nov. 7.
"Presidential elections always draw more voters," he said. "City elections don't tend to bring people out."
While that may be true, many of the early voters queried Monday said they were watching the city's mayoral race the closest. While most were mum on their selection, all said if people don't vote they shouldn't complain.
"It's a privilege and a right and we should take advantage of it," Gwen Lynch said. "Not every country is as fortunate as we are."
Wanting to avoid "all the people who wait until the last minute," Don Cave went to the courthouse to cast his vote early.
"I've got other things to do so this is the best time to go," Cave said. "If I decide to get busy (between now and Sept. 5), I don't have to worry."
Bob Davenport hasn't missed an election "since I was old enough to vote, and that was for Eisenhower's first time.
"You miss all the crowds and you get it out of the way," Davenport said of early voting. "It's convenient, which leaves no excuse for those who don't get out and vote."
Early voting ends Sept. 1. Voting hours for the early ballot this week are between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Starting Aug. 28 city election staff will work Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. The primary election is Sept. 5 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. with voting locations at the Community Center, 801 E. William St., the Carson Mall, 1313 S. Carson St., Nevada National Guard, 2522 S. Carson St. and the Brewery Arts Center, 449 W. King St.
Carson City residents can vote early in the primary election today through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Monday through Sept. 1 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Carson City Courthouse, 885 E. Musser St. Call 887-2087.