FILE - In this Feb. 15, 2020 file photo, people wait in line at an early voting location at the culinary workers union hall in Las Vegas. Nevada is attempting a high-wire act of holding its first-ever election almost entirely by mail, reflecting a new law allowing voters to register at the polls while keeping people safe amid the pandemic. Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske limited the number of polling places for the Tuesday, June 9, 2020, primary and instead sent absentee ballots to voters.
Election officials say they are preparing for what will be a huge turnout in the Nov. 3 election.
Wayne Thorley, the Secretary of State’s elections deputy, said he expects statewide turnout could exceed 70 percent. Aubrey Rowlatt, Carson City Clerk Recorder, said turnout by voters in the capital could be as high as 95-97 percent of those registered.
And both said the situation is complicated by the fact they are running two elections side by side — the mail-in election and the in-person election.
One change from the June primary election is that in-person voters will use the voting machines instead of filling out a paper ballot. Rowlatt said she hopes to have as many as 80 machines at the community center but that may not be possible because of social distancing. There won’t be machines in the hallway at the courthouse.
“I just can’t social distance here,” she said.
There will also be a drop-off box for mail-in ballots at Fuji Park.
She said she expects the split between in-person and mail-in will be about 50-50 in Carson City and that she’s still working to simplify the in-person process.
Thorley said running two elections side by side will increase the workload since all the clerks are expecting a heavy turnout. But he said some of the changes to the law approved during the 32nd special session will help.
That includes allowing the counties to run mail-in ballots through the scanner beginning 15 days before the election instead of making the clerks wait until just four days before election day.
“By the time election day rolls around, most counties should be done counting all ballots received to that point,” he said. “They’ll only have to count the ballots received election day.”
He said voters can make the process easier and more efficient by verifying their registration ahead of time to ensure they receive their mail-in ballot and that they are listed as an active voter. He said if their address isn’t correct, they won’t receive a ballot.
He said make a plan for how you’re going to vote and, if you want to vote in person, vote early. He said the process will work very much like it did in the June primary.
Thorley said one of the issues that has come up is the reduced number of volunteer poll workers because of the pandemic. That problem is especially acute in Clark and Washoe counties where 90-plus percent of voters live. He said Clark has raised what it pays volunteer workers because, so far, only about half the number of people needed have signed up.
Rowlatt said Carson has also had some of its veteran poll workers say they won’t be there this election.
Also because of the pandemic, there will be some short delays at the community center since workers have to sanitize the voting machines after every use.
“Have a little patience,” she said.
On election night, both said they will be posting results for in person early voting, in person election day voting and mail in early voting.
They will continue to post results every day until the count is complete. The count can continue until Nov. 12, nine days after the election.
Rowlatt said she is still working to try simplify the check in process for in-person voting.
But both warned that people shouldn’t expect final results election night
She said she plans to mail out military and overseas ballots the week of Sept. 14 and out of state ballots and sample ballots the week of Sept. 21.
Mail-in ballots will go out the week of Oct. 5, she said.
Rowlatt and Thorley said they expect everything will go well despite the complications caused by the pandemic. They pointed out that the primary went off with very few problems and that, this time, using machines for in-person voting will make the process simpler and faster.
The final step in the election process is the canvass — the official certification of the results. That will happen 13 days after the election on Nov. 16.