Early voting in city races just isn't cutting it

On the first day of early voting, 50 people showed up at the Las Vegas city clerk's office to cast their ballots.

It was, in retrospect, a crowd.

On Monday, 19 voters showed up at that polling place.

Early voting started Saturday and runs through June 1 at most locations. Turnout so far in most of the municipal elections has been low, as expected.

Of the 216,000 registered active voters in the city of Las Vegas, 2,736 had voted by the end of Wednesday.

Most city residents can vote in a single race for a municipal court judgeship.

The 28,000 voters in Ward 5 also can pick their representative to the City Council.

Election authorities expect turnout in most of Clark County will be about 10 percent of eligible voters.

North Las Vegas also is holding an election for a city council seat. Out of the 13,218 voters in Ward 2, 250 have cast ballots.

There are pockets of participatory democracy in the Las Vegas Valley. Turnout has been higher in Boulder City and Mesquite, which have competitive mayoral races.

In Boulder City, 1,067 people out of 10,082 have voted.

In Mesquite, 1,351 out of 5,833 eligible voters have cast their ballots.

Despite the relative obscurity of the races in the city of Las Vegas, the candidates are working to get voters to the polls by knocking on doors, making phone calls and stuffing mailboxes with fliers.

"I think every campaign is facing the same problems," said Gary Gray, a campaign consultant to council candidate Stacie Truesdell and judicial hopeful Martin Hastings. "We're telling people so they know where early voting places are, when election day is. But the fact is, most people just don't vote in city elections, especially when one or two races are on the ballot."

Political consultant Jim Ferrence, who represents Ricki Barlow for council and Lynn Avants for the judge's seat, said the campaigns are now focusing on getting those voters to the polls who historically have shown up for almost every election.

"A couple thousand votes, a small number will determine the outcome of the election," Ferrence said. "It makes every vote count that much more."

Gray said he favors moving the municipal elections to even years, when they would coincide with Clark County, state and federal elections, to boost participation.

Ferrence, though, said the city races would get "lost in the shuffle" of the other races.

He pointed to the Clark County Commission seats, which are chosen at the same time as the higher elected positions.

"Local politics are most influential on a person's life, and they should have the opportunity to stand alone," he said.