Polls open

Voters are heading to the polls this morning in what is expected to be another low turnout for today's primary election.

But by the time Nevada polls close tonight, a voter-advocacy group said a trend that has gone on "for too many years" will continue

Carson City Clerk Alan Glover said he expects only 34 percent of 21,608 voters in the capital to cast ballots, with about 3,600 showing up at the polls today. Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. for those who missed the two-week early voting period.

Today's primary could narrow the field of five Carson sheriff's candidates to two who will face off in the Nov. 5 general election. However, if one of those candidates receives 50 percent of the vote plus 1, he will be declared the winner.

Even though the sheriff's races in Carson and other nearby counties have raised some interest, state contests have drawn a collective yawn, which voter advocates and state officials admit.

Jim Hulse of Common Cause-Nevada said Monday the big problem is "a declining pattern of voter interest because it's perceived that big-money people are going to make the choices."

Carson's Republicans will cast ballots in the primary races for governor, lieutenant governor and Assembly candidates in districts 38 and 40. Carson Democrats will only vote in the primary for sheriff and governor.

Secretary of State Dean Heller predicted less than a third of the registered voters statewide would turn out.

"There isn't a lot of motivation to go to vote," Heller said.

Susan Bilyeu, state chief elections deputy, said she expected only about 72,000 Nevadans to take advantage of an early voting option that ended Friday night. That's less than half the number that voted early in the 2000 general election.

Bilyeu said primaries traditionally generate less voter interest than general elections. Nevadans must register by Oct. 5 to qualify to vote in the general election.

"Our Democracy, if that's what it is, is being turned into a plutocracy," Hulse said. "If you have enough money to run, you can chase out the competition. Voter apathy flows from that."

Hulse pointed to Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn's re-election bid as a good example of the problem. Guinn has raised $3 million, and Hulse said the result is "very little incentive for a good opponent to run in either major party."

One way to revive voter interest would be to control the flow of special-interest money, Hulse said. But he added, "It's like an illness. The longer it goes on, the more difficult it is to treat."

The 1998 primary, the last non-presidential primary, drew just 29.3 percent of Nevada's registered voters. That compares with the 46.4 percent turnout in the 2000 general election.

Guinn and Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt face token opposition in their Republican primaries. No primaries are being held for other statewide elective positions: attorney general, secretary of state, controller and treasurer.

Just over half of Nevada's eligible voters have registered to cast ballots in today's election, Heller said. About 830,000 of the state's nearly 1.7 million people of voting age are registered, putting Nevada's rate at the bottom nationwide.


Polling places for today's primary election are:

Wards 1 and 2 -- Carson City Community Center, 851 E. William St.;

Wards 3 and 4 -- Carson Mall, 1313. S. Carson St.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Call 887-2087 for information.


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