Low state voter turnout predicted

Election officials say early balloting in advance of Nevada's primary was low, and when all the votes are counted late Tuesday the statewide turnout could be a dismal 15 percent of registered voters.

That's the prediction of Secretary of State Ross Miller, an estimate backed by Clark County Registrar Larry Lomax who expects the same thing in his county " where two-thirds of the state's nearly 1.1 million active registered voters live.

But in the state's capital, Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover said the final number of 3,996 early voters was close to what he expected.

"We thought we were going to get 4,000. We were above 4,000 four years ago," he said. "We were right on target for what we thought we were going to get."

Glover said there has not been an increase in voter registration in Carson City like there has been in other areas.

He also said the off-year elections usually have higher turnout in the primaries than presidential-election years, because the presidential candidates use caucuses not primaries.

"The off-year elections are the state and county offices," he said. "Last time we had a governor's race that was really hot, so you get bigger turnout in off-year primaries."

Washoe County Registrar Dan Burk, whose county is home to 20 percent of the state's registered voters, is a bit more optimistic, figuring on a turnout of 22-24 percent of all early, absentee and election-day voters. But he says that's well below the primary election turnout two years ago.

Miller said Friday that a statewide turnout of 15 percent in the primary would be a record low as far as he knows. He noted that over the past decade the previous low was 23 percent in 2000 while other primary turnouts were at least 27 percent. In 2006 the figure was nearly 31 percent.

"There are not many high-profile races on the primary ballot this year," Miller said. "I'm anticipating 15 percent unless we see a significant surge of people going to the polls on Tuesday."

"It's ironic because we're seeing record numbers of voter registrations, and I'm confident that we'll see a record turnout in the general election" when a new president will be elected, he added.

Lomax estimated a 7 percent turnout in the Las Vegas area, or about 48,000 of Clark County's nearly 700,000 active registered voters, by the close of early voting on Friday. When absentee and election-day votes are added in, "we'll be lucky to get to 15 percent, quite frankly," he said.

"This would be the lowest even-year primary by a long shot. We've been averaging about 25 percent for Clark County," said Lomax. "But this year there are no high-profile (primary) races. There's nothing that's really exciting the voters."

On the bright side, Lomax said he expects Clark County to go from its lowest primary turnout on Tuesday to its highest general election turnout in November.

"We're going to have back-to-back record-setting elections," he said. "One is a record low and one is a record high."

Burk said the total of early voters by the close of early balloting Friday at about 12,000, or 6 percent of the active registered voters in Washoe County. But by the end of voting on Tuesday, he said the turnout total should be 22 to 24 percent.

While that would be higher than the statewide average estimated by Miller, Burk said, "It's pretty poor, to be honest. In 2006 we had 30 percent. But you can't make people vote. You just create a system that allows them to exercise their right to vote."

" Appeal Staff Writer Karen Woodmansee contributed to this report.

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