LAST IN LINE, BUT VOTES WILL COUNT

There was the retired gentleman in the Panama hat, driving the Bentley, "footloose and fancy free."

The bartender and skin-care consultant with the barbed wire ankle tattoo, working two jobs.

The Air Force guy in fatigues, the old man in rumpled clothes, the jogger in a hurry.

And then there was Bob Rodriguez, procrastinator extraordinaire.

"I kept on telling him," said his wife of 42 years, Yolanda Rodriguez. "He was like, ‘We will. We will, honey.’"

And then Tuesday rolled around: The last day to register to vote before the Aug. 12 primary.

Which meant a trip to the Clark County Election Department, at night, with the grandchildren in tow.

"We take them with us because we want them to see how important voting is to us," said Rodriguez, sales manager for a local Spanish language television station.

Rodriguez was there to change his address. He moved from Summerlin to North Las Vegas not long ago.

In all, said Larry Lomax, the county’s registrar of voters, 214 people procrastinated until the very end and had to register to vote in person Tuesday, either at the elections department or at the Clark County Government Center.

Those registrations put a cap on a record number, 697,413 active registered voters for the primary elections, Lomax said. That’s a 12 percent increase over registrations for the 2006 primary. It’s a 17 percent increase over 2004. The growth mirrors that of the county population as a whole.

Registration breakdowns by party weren’t available Wednesday, but as of July 14, Democrats held a 47 percent to 34 percent advantage over Republicans among Clark County’s active registered voters.

The total might change a little before it’s submitted to the secretary of state’s office today, Lomax said.

The total is certain to increase for the general election. If past years are any indication, the total voter registration could jump past 750,000, one person at a time.

A trickle of procrastinating potential voters made their way to the elections department Tuesday evening, where staff stayed until 9 p.m.

A young woman named Tiffany registered, but was too embarrassed about her procrastination to give her whole name.

She said she works two jobs — bartender and what she called an aesthetician. That’s a skin-care consultant.

"I work seven days," said Tiffany, sporting black flip-flops, jeans and that tattoo. "I’m totally booked."

Yeah, so is Air Force Guy, Vince Girolami.

"I’ve actually never registered to vote before," said Girolami, 25, who’s a full-time airman in the Air National Guard.

He said he has a roommate running for local office, so he felt obliged to vote for the guy.

Girolami’s a New Jersey native, but of course he’s moved around a lot in the past few years as part of the Air Force. He had a heck of a time finding the elections department, which sits in an industrial-like park on Cheyenne Avenue and has just a tiny, tiny sign out front.

"I had to drive all over the place to find it," Girolami said. He hadn’t realized that he couldn’t just go anywhere to register, the way he could have a couple of weeks ago.

But that deadline passed, so he went here and there, ended up at North Las Vegas City Hall, and was told to go to the elections department. "It’s around here somewhere," they told him.

No worries. He made it on time.

So did Keith McCloud, 62, the gentleman in the Bentley.

"It’s just too important not to vote," said McCloud, who’s been in Clark County about three years.

He said he still owns property in Texas and spends a lot of time out of town. He just got back from the California coast, for example, which explains the last-minute registering.

"I’m footloose and fancy free," McCloud said. He wore a silky green shirt with a palm tree print and a Panama hat that shouted "Ain’t I cool?"

McCloud slipped away, and the trickle of people into the elections office slowed to a drip as the sun went down.

Drip, drip.

About 7:20 p.m., a woman in gray sweat pants and a white tank top over a red tank top came in, quickly.

She did what she needed to do and was gone in three minutes, her white Nikes carrying her away.

Excuse us ma’am, would you mind answering a few questions?

"Oh. I gotta go," she said, never slowing down. "Gotta go. I have a car full of people waiting."

So, drip, drip.

Then came the Rodriguez clan.

"You know," said Bob Rodriguez, the TV station sales manager, "for some reason, I can’t remember my Nevada driver’s licence number. California, I did."

He pulled the license out, wrote down what he had to write down, and moved away from the counter.

It was approaching 8 p.m.

Yolanda, his wife, brought the grandkids inside.

They all made fun of Bob, in a good-natured way, for being almost the very last man in Clark County to get his voter registration in order before the deadline.

"He may look old and aged — no offense — but inside, he’s a kid," said the oldest granddaughter, a laughing 10-year-old. "He rolls around on the floor and plays with us. He’s great."

An elderly man in a ballcap and wrinkled clothes came in just then to register, well past 8 p.m., but the Rodriguez family kept our attention.

Rodriguez is 64, was born in New York and raised in California.

He said he and his wife met in high school.

"She saw me at my locker," he said. "She turned around and told her friend, ‘You see that boy? That’s who I’m going to marry.’"

Sure enough, they eloped a while later and married at Las Vegas’ Little White Wedding Chapel 42 years ago. They moved here eight years ago.

Rodriguez said he’s excited about the election this year, excited about increasing participation by Hispanics.

"Wasn’t like that 20 years ago," he said.

Really, he said, if you think about it, a guy like him could sway the whole thing. One person. One guy with a Spanish surname and a procrastinating nature and a bunch of grandkids keeping him young.

"One vote could determine the direction this country goes," Rodriguez said. Especially in Nevada, where rural Republicans and city Democrats are expected to battle it out, once again, for dominance.

Rodriguez and the other 213 procrastinators will be along for the ride.

Contact reporter Richard Lake at rlake @reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0307.

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