Early voting

Go figure. Nevada instituted early voting to spare citizens the long lines and waits of Election Day.

Now long lines and waits have made early voting anything but convenient. One Las Vegas polling place reported about 150 people in line when it opened Saturday, the first day of early balloting, and the queue numbered 90 people most of the day. At shopping malls and supermarkets, each day of this first week of early voting has resembled Election Days of the recent past.

Turnout for early voting in this year’s general election is on a record pace for Clark County. After five days of early and mail balloting, more than 180,000 citizens had cast ballots, according to the secretary of state’s office. That’s more than 21 percent of all county registered voters, with nine days of early voting remaining. In 2008, two-thirds of the state’s total turnout came through early voting.

One day social scientists may very well surmise that, if nothing else, the eclectic and politically contentious folks populating Nevada in the early 21st century had a mutual affinity for long lines.

But there are valid reasons why, at this writing, more than 267,000 Nevadans have voted early, in person or by absentee ballot: get-out-the-vote drives by the major political parties, campaigns, unions and independent groups; the large number of Silver State retirees and shift workers; large numbers of folks who just want to hedge against the possibility that something might keep them from the polls Nov. 6.

Another likely scenario: Many Nevadans are just fed up with the whole thing. They’re tired of being bombarded with phone calls and mail, and they’re sick of television commercials and 24/7 analysis of every word spoken by the candidates. No doubt some voters yearn for the day their neighbors take down their yard signs and talk about anything but politics. Some may surmise that if they vote early, they can mentally check out of the whole thing. Good luck with that.

Even before the early voting numbers from Saturday were released, Democratic and Republican spin doctors were telling us how their ground games helped their candidates and hurt their opponents. Their claims aside, the 24 percent of active registered voters not aligned with either major party will decide Nevada’s biggest races and its six Electoral College votes for the president. It might be the only thing this election year in which the figures don’t lie and the liars don’t figure.

Although plenty of voters are tired of the campaigns, Nevadans should be thrilled about at least two things:

First, unlike most of the country, our swing-state ballots really matter in the presidential race. By now, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have visited Nevada so many times they should have players club cards and enough points for a free buffet.

And second, when it comes to fulfilling our obligations as citizens, Nevadans don’t mind standing in a long line.

Make sure your vote is an informed one.

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