Turnout in today's primary predicted around 15 percent

This election year is the focus of everyone's interest, a wide-open free-for-all contest for the highest office in the land.

This Election Day is just the opposite.

Today is the day for Nevada's primary election. But the low-wattage election features no high-profile races and is on pace to draw what might be record low turnout.

Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax predicts total turnout will be around 15 percent, which would be the lowest turnout in an even-year election since at least 1996, the last year for which turnout figures were available.

It's ironic in a presidential election year that Lomax is expecting to shatter turnout records in November. But "there's just nothing very exciting" on the primary ballot, he said.

"We've had lots of voters come to vote, get in the booth and be surprised president isn't on there," Lomax said. "We hope they'll come back in November."

According to the secretary of state's office, 76,406 people cast ballots statewide through the end of the two-week early voting period Friday, a turnout of 7.3 percent of active registered voters. Early voting turnout in Clark County was slightly lower, 6.9 percent.

Nevada voters had their chance to weigh in on the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees back in January, when the parties held caucuses.

With the state's governor and the other constitutional officers, such as treasurer and attorney general, all elected to four-year terms in 2006, and neither U.S. Senate seat on this year's ballot, there just aren't very many important matters to be decided in this year's primary election.

Still, there are races worth watching:

Nevada Supreme Court: The field for the vacant seat on the high court will be whittled by the primary from four candidates down to two, who will face off in a November runoff. This is the only statewide race on the primary ballot.

State Senate: Longtime Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, faces a tough primary challenge from arch-conservative former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle in this hot Northern Nevada race.

Clark County Commission: The term limits decision, handed down by the Supreme Court just before early voting began, rendered longtime County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury ineligible, but he is still on the ballot in the District A Republican primary. If he wins, the county Republican Party will be tasked with choosing a replacement nominee.

Clark County School Board: Two School Board incumbents, Mary Beth Scow and Ruth Johnson, also were rendered ineligible by the term limits decision but remain on the ballot in multi-way nonpartisan primaries. If they place in the top two, they'll be replaced on the general election ballot by the next-highest vote getter.

Embattled judges: Clark County judges Elizabeth Halverson, who faces ongoing disciplinary proceedings, and Nicholas Del Vecchio, who also faces disciplinary charges, are among the judicial candidates who must come in first or second in the primary to reach the November runoff.

Congress: Nevada's members of the House of Representatives, Democrat Shelley Berkley, Republican Dean Heller and Republican Jon Porter, all face little-known primary challengers. The primary also will determine the challenger for Berkley and Porter's seats in the general election.

Assembly: Contentious primaries are being waged for the Republican nomination in three Southern Nevada Assembly districts. Assembly District 2 is an open seat previously occupied by Republican Garn Mabey, while two Republican incumbents, District 4's Francis Allen and District 21's Bob Beers, face credible challengers.

Unopposed judges: 17 Clark County judges are running unopposed. They appear on the primary ballot, but must get just one vote to be elected, and will not appear on the general election ballot.

Contact reporter Molly Ball at mball@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919.