Record-setting turnout falls short

A record number of Nevadans went to the polls in November, but turnout was still low compared with other states.

Nevada had the 10th-lowest turnout of eligible voters among the 50 states and Washington, D.C., according to a report from, a project of the nonprofit Pew Center on the States.

The 2008 turnout of 967,848 statewide represented 57.53 percent of the voting-eligible population, according to the Pew report. That was up more than 2 percentage points from Nevada’s 2004 turnout of 55.25 percent of eligible voters.

The worst state for voter participation in 2008 was West Virginia, where 50.27 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.

Leading the pack with the best turnout was Minnesota at 77.79 percent. In a state where a hair’s breadth U.S. Senate contest is still going through a recount, maybe people really do believe that every vote counts.

Nationally, 60.94 percent of eligible voters turned out. That was 130 million of the nation’s 213 million eligible voters, meaning the estimated number of U.S. citizens 18 or older, including eligible overseas voters, minus ineligible felons.

The turnout report published by the Nevada secretary of state’s office puts the state’s number at 80.27 percent, but that statistic is computed differently: It represents the number of active registered voters who turned out. Not all eligible voters are registered. According to Pew, only about 86 percent of Nevadans who were eligible to vote were registered — active or inactive — in 2008.

Nevada election officials said the state scores high on the kinds of demographic factors that tend to correlate with people being less likely to register and vote. Minorities, the less educated, those with low incomes and transient populations all are less likely to vote than the population as a whole. All are found disproportionately in Nevada.

A record national turnout, threatening massive problems at the polls, was widely predicted in advance of the November election, the Pew report said, but neither ended up happening.

The sheer number of voters was the most in the nation’s history, but as a percentage, it was merely a 40-year high.

Meanwhile, the voting system "functioned fairly well," the report said. "Predictions of chaos and meltdowns never materialized."

The report cited "a depressed Republican electorate" as a possible reason for lower turnout than many had foreseen, offsetting Democratic enthusiasm for President-elect Barack Obama and hunger for change.

Early voting, pioneered in Nevada and increasingly popular nationwide, was credited with helping Election Day go smoothly.

A record 58 percent of all Nevada ballots were cast early in the 2008 election.


With millions of people preparing to flood Washington for Barack Obama’s inauguration on Jan. 20, some Republicans are figuring it might be a good time to be somewhere else.

Like Las Vegas!

Charlie Spies, a Republican election lawyer, and his wife Lisa, a GOP fundraiser, are planning their "Inaugural in Exile" in Las Vegas, as he explained in an e-mail invitation to friends.

"What better way to mark the Obama Inauguration (and his millions of adoring fans that will be in D.C.) than to get out of town to fabulous Las Vegas!" wrote Spies, who was chief financial officer for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. "We hope you can join us for dinner and a fun evening on Monday, Jan. 19, to celebrate the last few hours of our Republican president in the White House."

So far, Charlie and Lisa Spies have attracted about 15 takers from around the country, as first reported by Politico.

In an interview Friday, Charlie Spies said the point was not to rain on the inaugural parade.

"First of all, this is nothing bad about Obama; we wish him the best and his supporters the best," Spies said. "But if you live in downtown D.C., there is absolutely no reason to be there."

Plus, Spies said, Las Vegas "has great deals" these days. He and his wife plan to stay at Encore, while some of the others will be at the Palazzo.

"We are happy to be doing our part to help the economy in Las Vegas," he said.

They are letting friends more excited about the inaugural use their home during the four days they are in Nevada.

"That seemed to be a good compromise, letting someone who appreciates it use it," Spies said.

Spies said he hasn’t thought yet whether he is going to watch the inauguration on television or avoid it entirely.

"I have not thought that far," he said. "For us, this is nothing negative about Obama. It is simply celebrating eight years of President Bush and his keeping the country safe."

Contact reporter Molly Ball at or 702-387-2919.

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