LAUGHLIN - A steady line of voters, many of them enthusiastic, walked into the Spirit Mountain Activity Center here Wednesday to cast early votes.
There were no lines at the Galleria at Sunset mall in Henderson or any other early-voting site in the Las Vegas Valley.
Laughlin voters are deciding whether to form their own city, primarily to get out from under the thumb of Clark County government, which proponents say is just too far away and too indifferent to them to provide proper governance.
Voters in other areas, with no hot local issues of their own to consider, scarcely are casting ballots in what might become known as one of Nevada's most boring primary elections.
"The only place where the turnout is high is in Laughlin; everywhere else it is pathetic," Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax said.
Except in the Republican campaign for the new 4th Congressional District, most of the state's primary races - where Democrats face Democrats and Republicans face Republicans - haven't been particularly exciting. That is expected to change in November's general election, which features the presidential race, a competitive U.S. Senate race, more exciting congressional, legislative and county contests, as well as several ballot measures.
WHERE THE ACTION IS
After casting his ballot, Laughlin resident Sonny Sandoval said he is on a fixed income and can't afford to pay more money in taxes. So he voted no on incorporation Wednesday, the only day in which Laughlin residents could cast early votes. Otherwise, they have to vote on election day.
"If you incorporate, you've got to raise the taxes to pay for your government," Sandoval said. "As retirees, we can't afford that."
By 9 a.m., 98 of the Laughlin's 3,581 registered voters had cast ballots. By 12:50 p.m., it had risen to 327, and by 4 p.m., 455 people had voted, or 12.7 percent of all registered voters.
That turnout is monumental compared with the rest of Nevada.
Statewide through Tuesday, the last day with complete tallies for all 17 Nevada counties, 22,910 people, or 2.2 percent of all registered voters, had cast ballots.
Clark County's early voting through Tuesday showed 14,314 people, or 2.1 percent of all voters. Lomax expects only 19 percent of registered voters in the county will cast ballots during the primary election. Secretary of State Ross Miller agrees. He projects 15 percent to 20 percent of the state's voters will cast ballots by the end of election day June 12.
"Unless there is a high-profile, competitive race, not many people vote in a primary election," he said. "Laughlin is a perfect example of a high-profile race that draws people to vote."
Low primary turnouts are nothing new. Lomax noted 14.76 percent of Clark County voters cast ballots in the primary in 2008, so the turnout this year is better.
VOTERS SAY WHY
Residents Glen and Virginia Newton also voted against Laughlin incorporation. They said they've been through it before in Centennial, Colo., where their taxes increased after a city was created. The Newtons said Laughlin isn't prepared to sustain itself financially.
"The money's not coming from the casinos; they bailed out," Glen Newton said. "They're not stupid. If it was feasible, fine. But the casinos aren't in, and the solar plant's not built."
Meanwhile at the Galleria at Sunset in Henderson, about a dozen people managed three rows of machines that were rarely occupied by more than one or two voters at a time.
"I think that is terrible," said voter Sy Brown, 85, of Henderson, about the turnout. "You don't vote, you get what you deserve."
Sergio Trejo, 18, of Las Vegas was voting for the first time and cast a ballot in the Republican primary.
Trejo said he chose the GOP candidates in part because he isn't impressed with Democratic President Barack Obama.
"I didn't feel like Obama got much done," Trejo said.
SIGNS IN LAUGHLIN
In Laughlin, many signs urging voters to decide yes or no on were posted across the street from the sole early voting place.
Around the corner, the battle of the signs was more intense.
"No new taxes," "Laughlinsnotready.com," "Now is not the time," "No more government in our lives" signs lined Bruce Woodbury Drive.
Dolores Martinez voted for incorporation.
"I think the town should grow," Martinez said. "We need more stores. We have to go to Bullhead City, Ariz. ... I think they're afraid of raising taxes, but I'm not. It's for our own good."
Richard Bullock, a candidate for Laughlin City Council Seat B, said no one wants to raise taxes.
"Before we would raise taxes or agree to a reduction in services, we would go ourselves in front of the Legislature and say we were wrong," he said. "We'd quash it ourselves before we would let that happen."
He said Laughlin residents should make decisions on how to run their government, rather than relying on government in Clark County, which is an hour and a half away by car.
The proposed city would be modeled after Las Vegas, with a county island casino corridor not included in the new city's boundaries. Fire and police services could be outsourced, or city departments could be created. The county would be responsible for providing services to the business corridor.
Revenue would be generated by property taxes, state taxes and municipal fees. Most of the state taxes would come from the casino corridor. But most casinos are opting out of the proposed city, fearing the incorporation, if passed, could fail financially.
Even if voters approve incorporation, state legislators in 2013 could nullify that vote if they found city revenues would not cover all necessary government costs.
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