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Long lines on last day of early voting may be a thing of the past

Updated November 3, 2022 - 6:30 pm

Friday is the final day of early voting, traditionally the last moment when procrastinating Nevadans can cast a ballot if they don’t want to do so on Election Day Tuesday.

But voting by mail — which started during the pandemic and was made a permanent feature of Nevada elections in 2021 — has changed that dynamic considerably, according to Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria.

In past years, lines to vote extended well into the evening, sometimes as late as 10:30 p.m. or even 11 p.m., Gloria said. In early voting, which started Oct. 22 and runs through Friday, officials won’t close a polling station as long as there are people waiting to vote.

“As long as there’s a line, we will continue to process votes,” Gloria said.

That’s in contrast to Election Day, when the law says polls are to be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. At that time, an election official will be posted at the end of the line, and no tardy voters can join the queue. Anybody who is in line at the 7 p.m. cutoff will be allowed to vote, no matter how long that takes.

But in early voting, the rules are different: Polls stay open as long as voters keep showing up, at least until midnight on the last day. Gloria says the law doesn’t allow him to extend the number of days early voting is allowed.

And voters can keep dropping off their mail ballots in drop boxes at early voting centers, so long as they are open.

So, like Halloween trick-or-treaters, when visits to the polls slow down, officials will take a look to see if any stragglers are still coming to vote. If so, they’ll keep the polling places open. If not, they’ll shut them down.

Long lines in past

In past years, lines extended past sunset at Silverado Ranch Plaza on South Eastern Avenue in the south valley, as well as the Cardenas supermarket at Bonanza Road and Lamb Boulevard in east Las Vegas. But it remains to be seen whether lines will be that long this year, given the fact that every active registered voter was sent a mail ballot. (Mail ballots must be postmarked by Election Day — and received by Nov. 12 — in order to be counted.)

So far, Gloria said, voting has gone smoothly. County officials are allowed to begin opening and counting mail ballots starting on Oct. 24. “Everything has been pretty streamlined,” he said.

Gloria also said there are plenty of electronic voting machines for people to use; Clark County purchased the machines prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, before voting by mail became a significant factor in elections. If a machine is used during early voting, it won’t be used during Election Day voting, Gloria said. But nearly every polling place in the county will have a minimum of 15 machines.

There may be cases in which machines are out of service, Gloria said. That can happen if the attached printer — which produces a voter-verified receipt of every ballot cast —malfunctions, or if the machine’s touch screen requires calibration.

Results delayed

Gloria said he anticipates a smooth count this year, in part because election staff no longer have to adjust to the relatively new process of counting the reams of mail ballots the county will receive.

On election night, however, officials will only post the results of in-person Election Day voting, in-person early voting and the mail ballots that have been counted up to that point. There will be additional mail ballots the county will continue to receive after Election Day that will change vote counts, and could even change the results of very close races.

The county must send final unofficial election results to the secretary of state’s office by Nov. 17, 10 working days after the election, and county commissioners will hold a special meeting to canvass the election on Nov. 18.

Contact Steve Sebelius at SSebelius@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0253. Follow @SteveSebelius on Twitter.

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