Early voting begins today in Nevada.
Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax can usually predict the turnout, but this election season has proven difficult for his crystal ball.
"I'm totally puzzled about what the turnout will be like for this election," Lomax said. "When we have a busy election, we usually have a huge influx in voter registration, and we didn't see that at all."
But Lomax added, "That could be because the county was always growing before, and now it's shrinking."
There are more than 1.1 million Nevadans registered as active voters, according to the secretary of state's office. More than 55,000 people have registered since the June 4 primary registration period closed.
There are 736,663 registered voters in Clark County, down from 815,190 registered for the 2008 general election. About 80 percent of those registered voted in the presidential election.
Nevada was one of the hardest hit states by the recession and continues to struggle economically -- leading the nation in unemployment and foreclosures and forcing many to leave to find work.
These are the hot-button issues dominating the highly contentious U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Sen. Harry Reid and GOP challenger Sharron Angle.
The rest of the nation has been closely watching the race to see if Angle, a former state assemblywoman, can defeat the Senate majority leader, who is seeking a fifth term.
It's almost reminiscent of a presidential election, Lomax said.
"I predicted this will be an extremely busy election," he said. "So far we haven't seen those indicators that that would be the case. This year is different, in all of those other years we had been booming."
Another close race is the 3rd Congressional District between Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., and state Sen. Joe Heck, a Republican.
There are 84 early voting sites at grocery stores and malls throughout the county. All registered voters may vote before Election Day in federal and state elections. Voting continues every day for two weeks, ending the Friday before the election.
All early voting sites use touch-screen voting machines that provide ballots and instructions in both English and Spanish.
Election officials and volunteers set up Friday afternoon at the East Las Vegas Senior/Community Center. Teams moved furniture and clicked table legs into the bottom of 20 voting machines, which looked like stacked luggage.
Maria Zaldivar-Vaught is a veteran election official with 20 years of experience in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
She expects more voters at the community center because of a nearby "Get out the vote" rally targeting Hispanic voters.
However, voters must remove T-shirts, hats, buttons and stickers supporting their candidates when they enter the voting site, Zaldivar-Vaught said.
The least crowded time to vote is during the first week of early voting in the afternoon. Today is expected to be one of the busiest days for early voting, which ends Oct. 29.
"If you've made up your mind and know who to vote for, it's less crowded then," Lomax said. "At the permanent sites, it slows down about 6 p.m. during the first week."
Lomax said the technology is working fine. The only issue he foresees will be political activity by people campaigning too close to voting sites. State law requires them to stay off from private property and at least 100-feet away from the polls.
Anyone can vote at any site. For more information, call 702-455-VOTE or go to www.accessclarkcounty.com and click on the "Vote Early" icon.
Contact Kristi Jourdan at email@example.com or 702-383-0279.