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Clark County’s top election official: Primary lines were ‘unacceptable’

Clark County’s top election official said Wednesday that the lines that forced voters to cast ballots into the early morning hours were “unacceptable,” and November’s general election will be better.

“There were things we could have done in hindsight, but it would have required more resources to buy more equipment along those lines for a one-time election,” said Joe Gloria, Clark County’s registrar of voters.

Gloria said the county purchased 60 ballot printers at a cost of nearly $300,000 for this election.

“So they weren’t cheap, and we didn’t buy more than we thought we would need since we were going to focus on same-day registration in these sites,” he said.

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, Nevada shifted its primary to an all-mail election for the first time in state history. Gloria said Tuesday his staff faced a “tremendous challenge” with the election because it did not know the primary would be held by mail until late March.

The change to an all-mail primary prompted a lawsuit from state and national Democrats, which led to Clark County agreeing to add two in-person voting sites for a total of three locations on primary election day. All other counties had one in-person voting site.

When the changes were first announced in March, Gloria and his staff strongly recommended voters confirm their registration and vote by mail before the June 9 primary date. He urged voters to call his office if they did not receive a ballot in the mail.

Long lines

Voters reported waiting in line for hours to cast ballots in-person, and initial results were not released until after 2:30 a.m.

Some claimed they had not received a ballot, while others took advantage of the state’s newly implemented same-day voter registration.

Gloria said the county does not have numbers for election day turnout yet. He said statistics on how many people were registering for the first time or claimed they did not receive a ballot would need to be determined after votes are processed.

The Nevada secretary of state’s office outlined its plan for sharing results and turnout information on Monday.

It will post new results beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday and each day thereafter until June 17. On June 19, the final, unofficial results will be published, which will be then confirmed through the typical canvassing period.

Lines at voting locations drew swift criticism from state Democrats, who released a statement first on Tuesday night and again Wednesday morning.

“These problems were entirely avoidable by the Secretary of State,” party Chairman William McCurdy II said in the Wednesday morning statement. “They are the consequences of inadequate polling locations across the state.”

Gloria said Wednesday that the county thought it did what was necessary to prevent large groups of people to stem the spread of the coronavirus, and the early voting period gave no indication that there would be such large election day turnout.

“In our preparation for the election, we had to make some estimations as to what kind of numbers we were going to get and we were not expecting that many people to show up for the reissuing of ballots on Election Day,” he said.

In determining how much equipment to buy for the election, Gloria said it came down to how much space would be available to allow for social distancing at the three sites.

Eyes on November

Although a plan for the general election has not been determined, Gloria said, “We do know that we will offer in-person voting, which was not offered in large scale the way we normally do here in Clark County for the primary, but that will change for the general.”

Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom commended Gloria and his staff for “doing their best” on election night, but he called the long wait times “unacceptable” and pledged to sort out the problems before the crucial November general election.

“Money is no object,” Segerblom said in reference to Gloria’s statement on printer costs. He added the county can shift whatever funds are needed, including drawing from federal COVID-19 relief money, to ensure a smoother election.

“This is a democracy, and no one should have to wait more than 30 minutes to vote,” Segerblom said.

Segerblom took some solace in the fact the problems occurred during a state primary in which few races were actually decided.

“But November is the most critical election of my lifetime,” Segerblom added. “There’s going to be a huge turnout. We have to do whatever it takes.”

Contact Blake Apgar at bapgar@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5298. Follow @blakeapgar on Twitter. Contact Rory Appleton at rappleton@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0276. Follow @RoryDoesPhonics on Twitter.

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