Election officials say voting smooth

Election officials reported few early glitches at polling sites in Southern Nevada and across the state, as voters went to the polls Tuesday morning.

"There were a couple of delays in opening polling sites, but all the polls are open and the election is running smoothly so far," Secretary of State Ross Miller said.

"It’s been very quiet which, as the state’s top election officer, is everything that you hope for," Miller said.

No substantial complaints of election-day irregularities were reported to Miller’s office, though a complaint about last week’s get out the vote efforts by Las Vegas casino companies was filed with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Members of Miller’s Nevada Election Integrity Task Force — which also includes the FBI, Las Vegas police, the U.S. Attorney’s office and the attorney general’s office — were holed up in a small conference room at the Grant Sawyer state government building using laptop computers to monitor Internet complaints from voters.

Task force members said there was little to investigate this morning, but added that the afternoon on Election Day is traditionally busier with complaints.

Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax said brisk early-morning voting here had slowed down by noon, and he now was expecting a lighter turnout than he originally predicted.

With passions running high among voters and a bitter nationally watched U.S. Senate race in the mix, election officials said earlier that they expected statewide turnout as high as 65 percent of the state’s more than a million eligible, registered voters.

But Lomax said he was scaling back his estimate of the number of Clark County voters going to the polls today from 190,000 to 160,000.

Lomax said more than half of the expected votes here in this election, about 290,000 ballots, already have been cast as early or absentee ballots, and initial counts could be released as early as 7:30 p.m., a half-hour after polls close.

Lomax said voting was running smoothly in Southern Nevada, although he said some polling sites initially experienced voter "card activation issues."

"We always have that problem," he said. "It’s something that can be corrected."

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle, reported to be slightly ahead in the pre-election polls, still wasn’t predicting victory over Democratic incumbent Harry Reid after she voted about 10 a.m. at McQueen High School in northwest Reno.

"I’m cautiously optimistic," said Angle as she and her husband, Ted, left the polling place. "It is gratifying to know that so many people support you. People love the Constitution. People love freedom. They see me as one of them. I am not special."

Many other voters walked up to shake her hand and wish her well. More than a dozen reporters and photographers followed her in and out of the polling place.

Angle said she was not aware of any voting irregularities reported today, but she said she was prepared to challenge the results if that occurs. She also said she might ask for a recount if the election is close.

In Las Vegas, as Reid left his Summerlin campaign headquarters Tuesday morning, one of his volunteers, 41-year-old Lorenzo Adams, made a prediction.

"You’re going to see that the polls are wrong, that the race with Angle isn’t even close," said Adams, a tax preparer. "They’re taking polls of people who have land lines and most people in Las Vegas use cell phones."

In the crowded headquarters, with media from around the country on hand, Reid went around the room to personally thank volunteers for their efforts, often placing both of his hands on their shoulders as he spoke. He urged them to continue to work to get out the vote.

"OK troops, let’s go," he said.

Reid told reporters that he was encouraged by the number of Democrats who turned out for early voting and he said many Republicans from around the state have told him that they voted for him rather than Angle. He said Republicans were voting for him not because they suddenly wanted to be Democrats, but because they found Angle too extreme.

"They don’t want a Republican Party with her brand on it," Reid said.

Election Day campaigning by both Republicans and Democrats heated up in the Senate race.

A Harrah’s Entertainment official declined comment on a National Review Online article, circulated by Republican operatives, that reported Harrah’s pushed employees to vote early in an effort to boost turnout, which would likely help Reid. Company e-mails showed Harrah’s executives, who have endorsed Reid, stepped up the effort following a plea from an unidentified Reid staffer who told Harrah’s that it was lagging behind the get-out-the-vote campaign of MGM Resorts International.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Saturday that a multi-casino effort was done in conjunction with the Culinary Union, a heavy Reid supporter. MGM Resorts spokesman Alan Feldman said more than 2,000 company employees were bused to the early voting sites.

The Washington Times newspaper reported Tuesday that MGM Resorts sent employees a voter’s guide with stars next to the names of candidates the company supports, including Reid.

Republican operatives forwarded both articles widely, styling the efforts as improper pressuring of employees to support Reid.

Tuesday afternoon, Cleta Mitchell, legal counsel for the Angle campaign, sent a letter to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in Washington asking it to investigate her claim that Harrah’s had intimidated and coerced employees into voting for Reid.

A Republican operative filed a separate complaint with the secretary of state’s office last week, alleging unions were coercing casino employees into voting after busing them to early polling sites. A top Culinary Union official, however, said the effort was nonpartisan and that no election laws were broken.

Also on election day, President Barack Obama urged Nevadans to reelect Reid in a brief interview with hip hop radio station Hot 97.5 KVEG.

"We have made progress all across the board but it is all at risk if people don’t turn out to vote today," the Democratic president said in the 11th-hour pitch. "I’m sure the weather is always good in Las Vegas, so you have got no excuses."

At one Las Vegas polling site, Staton Elementary School in Summerlin, Manuel Alvarez said his main reason for coming out was to vote in the Senate race. A Democrat, he said he voted for Reid, even though "it’s hard to know who’s doing the best job."

"Reid looks pretty weak," he said, noting that neither Reid nor Republican candidate Sharron Angle seems a solid candidate.

"I’m Hispanic and I don’t like the way she portrays Hispanics. But Reid, he’s been so weak with the economy and foreclosures," Alvarez said.

Liz Buckley, a retired Republican, who voted at Wasden Elementary School, said she didn’t vote for either the Democrat or the Republican.

"I don’t like Harry Reid and I don’t like Sharron Angle,” Buckley said. "I don’t like them knocking at each other. Everybody’s sick of that."

That sentiment was echoed by Sheryl James, a Democrat who said the Senate race was confusing because of the barrage of "negative snippets" in campaign ads.

"You don’t know what to believe anymore,” James said.

Another voter at Wasden, Tammy Joslin said, "We need to get this country in the right direction, and I don’t think it’s going right. I want Harry Reid out of there — Not that she’s great. We need to give someone else a chance."

You didn’t have to stand in line when the polls opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday if your precinct was at Ruth Fyfe Elementary School near Valley View Boulevard and West Bonanza Road.

"Not much of a rush, is there?" said polling place team leader Lew Wallenmeyer as he watched just two women walk into the school cafeteria to vote.

One of those voters was Jill Cribari, a 41-year-old literacy specialist at Detwiler Elementary School.

She came away from the voting booth wishing there was a good third choice for U.S. senator. Neither candidate, she said, had good ideas for jump-starting the economy.

"We didn’t have anybody good to vote for senator," she said, explaining that she only voted for the Reid because she disagreed with Angle’s positions on issues. "It’s just a shame we don’t have a solid substantial third party. We really need one."

Cribari said she voted for Brian Sandoval for governor because she felt "we need a Republican in that position."

Like most voters, Cribari said the economy is the overriding issue.

"With so many jobs shipped overseas, it’s hard to turn it around," she said.

After 33-year-old Ronnie Lin voted at the elementary school, he said the most important vote he cast was for Reid.

"I think more people will listen to him because he’s the majority leader," the office worker said.

Lin said he also liked the ideas of Reid’s son, Rory, and voted for the Clark County commissioner for governor.

"But both he and Sandoval seemed good," he said.

John Kammeyer, a casino supervisor, said he wouldn’t reveal who he voted for in the senate race but he did say he was "unhappy with the status quo."

With the economy tanking, Kammeyer said he had to vote "for anybody but the incumbent — well, I guess I just told you how I voted, didn’t I?"

On Tuesday afternoon, Reid stopped by Democratic Party headquarters on Valley View Boulevard to give some three dozen volunteers a campaign pep talk. As a young boxer, Reid said some of his fights did not end in a knockout so he would have to wait for the judges’ decision. As a lawyer he often waited for juries to return verdicts.

"That’s what we are doing today," he said. "I always felt good about my fights and about the cases I took because I always prepared really hard and worked harder than anyone else.

"There has never been a campaign that has had a better grassroots plan and execution, and that is not just me talking," Reid said. "People from all over the country have looked at this and have said this is the best campaign operation in the history of the country except for a presidential election year, and frankly it is a lot better than most of those."

Reid told the workers about Suki Colton, the wife of his longtime friend Stan Colton of Searchlight, who had been dying of cancer.

"Stan Colton called about four or five days ago and said, ‘Suki knows she is going to die but would not go to her death without having voted for you.’ They took her in and she voted early."

Suki Colton died Saturday.

"What we are doing is more than just numbers," Reid said as the workers applauded. "It is about people like Suki Colton who believed in what we are doing."

State Democratic Party chairman Sam Lieberman told volunteers the party at Aria tonight starts at 6:30, but did not want to see anyone there that early.

"We need you on the phones and at the doors and in the community until the polls close at 7 o-clock."

As he was leaving, Reid was asked if he was confident he had done all he could do to win the election.

"Yep," he said.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135 or read more courts coverage at lvlegalnews.com.

Review-Journal reporters Paul Harasim, Keith Rogers, Ed Vogel and Steve Tetreault contributed to this report.

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