Las Vegas Sun

November 26, 2020

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In Las Vegas, long lines bring seven-hour wait to vote in primary

Titus, Lee, Horsford cruise into general election as expected

Voters

C. Moon Reed

People wait in line at the Clark County Election Department, one of a few in-person voting places during a nearly all-mail primary election Tuesday, June 9, 2020, in Las Vegas.

Primary Election Voting

Election workers process mail-in ballots during a nearly all-mail primary election Tuesday, June 9, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher) Launch slideshow »

Some Las Vegas-area voters arrived Tuesday night at one of three polling places ready to cast their ballots in the primary election.

Instead, they patiently waited. And waited.

Seven hours later for some, those votes were finally recorded after 2 a.m. Wednesday.

Once the final votes were received, election officials were able to distribute early returns — something originally expected at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. But with hundreds of voters in line, and fewer locations because of coronavirus concerns in what was supposed to be a mostly mail-in election, results had to be delayed until the last person voted.

That occurred just past 2 a.m. at Paradise Recreation Center.

“If it takes me an hour, then, oh well. If it takes me two, oh well. I’m just hanging out at home anyway,” voter Nancy Castro said.

The election was conducted through mail to limit the virus spread, with 225,547 mail-in ballots returned in Clark County through Tuesday, of which 111,052 were from Democrats and 78,136 were from Republicans. The final tallies will not be official until next week due to outstanding mail-in ballots, meaning the results released early Wednesday were a small sample size with expected results — the three Democratic House candidates Dina Titus, Steven Horsford and Susie Lee fended off their challengers to advance to the general election in November (see breakdown below).

The primary has been an unusual one in Nevada, as the majority of votes were cast through mail-in ballots, a precaution Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske and county registrars took earlier this year in response to the pandemic.

Clark County agreed to expand in-person voting locations and send out ballots to all registered voters. State and national Republicans recently sued Clark County officials, claiming that decision should not have been made without a public meeting. County spokesman Dan Kulin has said the lawsuit is based on “suspicions, not facts.”

Three in-person sites were available in the Las Vegas area, and those were crowded for the 12-hour voting window and beyond. When polls closed at 7 p.m., Nevada Deputy Secretary of State for Elections Wayne Thorley said his office had received a report of a three-hour wait at one Clark County polling place. As the night grew longer, so did the wait time, as the election was further delayed by paper ballot instead of the usual electronic filing.

“Had the secretary of state gotten her way and Clark County voters were limited to just a single polling location, these wait times would have been even longer than the ones we’re seeing now,” the state Democrats said in a statement. “It is imperative the state offer an adequate amount of hygienic, well-organized polling locations and we will continue fighting for these improvements to prevent a repeat in November should we find ourselves under the same circumstances.”

At the Clark County Election Department site, volunteers would periodically come by with water because it was so hot for those waiting. They also brought snacks and even pizzas. Most important, election volunteers were sanitizing election stations after each person voted, which likely contributed to the delays.

Voter Jami Kelsey said she didn't mind the wait.

"I totally believe that there's no progress without participation and that it's important to make sure that what we care about is hurting," Kelsey said. "We educate ourselves and we come out when we need to. So the long and the short of it, I had to be here."

Voters at the Paradise Recreation Center early Tuesday gave differing reasons for casting ballots in-person, including a mistrust of mail-in ballots, procrastination and a general comfort with voting in person.

Pablo Antonio, a Democrat, said he and his family did not receive a ballot in the mail, so they had to come to the center to vote. He was voting Democrat down the ticket. Others also said they didn’t receive the ballot in the mail.

But Thorley said that ballots were mailed to “every registered voter in Clark County,” voters had 14 days of early voting. Thorley told KLAS-TV that despite the delays he was pleased that voters were able to exercise their right to vote. “Plan for the worst and hope for the best,” he told the local CBS affiliate.

Some suspect the turnout was high because residents are motivated to have a voice after the two weeks of demonstrations in town advocating for law enforcement reform and social justice for blacks after the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Castro said, “Things have changed, and I’m not sure I want to back somebody who every single police organization is behind,” she said.

Erik Nichols said he cast his ballot in person because he didn’t trust current political leadership.

“I don’t trust the Democrats in this town,” he said, calling Gov. Steve Sisolak a “fraud.”

Election officials will have four months to enhance the process before the general election in November, which should feature a higher turnout because it’s a presidential year. The impact of COVID-19 will still be a factor, as some won’t be ready to leave their homes out of virus concerns.

On Twitter, Clark County commissioner Tick Segerblom posted, “I appreciate the fact that for the first time we have election day voting and the virus requires distance, but at the end of the day we just needed more staff — and more locations. An easy fix that I guarantee will happen!”

• • •

The three incumbent Las Vegas-area Democrats looking to retain their spots in the U.S. House of Representatives are headed to the November general election.

Rep. Dina Titus of the 1st Congressional District, Rep. Susie Lee of the 3rd district and Rep. Steven Horsford of the 4th district will face a Republican contender later this year, having been declared the winner of their races by the Associated Press shortly after the first round of results came in.

Titus held 86% of the vote with 138 of 312 precincts reporting as of 3:15 a.m, and Lee carried 83% of the votes with 219 of 428 precincts reporting. Horsford had 75% of the vote with 234 of 479 precincts reporting.

On the Republican side, victory is still up for grabs.

In the 1st District’s Republican primary, candidate Joyce Bentley, who carried the Republican nomination in the district in 2018, led her competitors with 37.93% of a reported 7,255 votes, followed by Josh Elliot with 30.28% of the vote.

Republican Dan Rodimer leads his challengers as of the first round of results in the 3rd district with 43.5% of the reported 22,839 votes, followed by Dan Schwartz with 32.6% of the vote.

In the 4th district, Jim Marchant led Republicans with 33.53% of the reported 25,495 votes, followed by Sam Peters at 29.64%.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.