By Mark Waite
Tamera Janeczko was part of a long line of people waiting to vote on the first day of early voting at the courthouse Saturday morning, holding an umbrella in one hand to shield her from the sun and a leash for her dog Bandit in the other.
Janeczko said she works in Las Vegas and wanted to get her voting duty over with the first day.
She wasn’t alone. The Nye County Clerk’s Office reported heavy early voting this year, with 802 going to the polls in Pahrump on Saturday, 488 Sunday and 906 on Monday. When added to the 139 who voted early in Tonopah the first three days, Nye County reported 2,335 early voters by Tuesday.
County Clerk Sam Merlino said it’s not unusual to have a long line on the first day of early voting. In 2008, the line stretched around the corner. But the numbers easily surpassed the 1,853 people who voted early the first three days in 2008. That year 8,237 voted early, almost half of the voter turnout.
The start of voting was delayed 50 minutes from the scheduled starting time at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning because a printer that spits out labels with voters’ names, addresses, precincts, party and signature wasn’t working, Merlino said.
“Everybody’s been great. We went out and explained it to them. It was me that was having a heart attack,” she said.
Resident Sam Jones was conducting a voluntary exit poll at the courthouse door to verify the results. Jones said a lot of people stopped to fill out the form. Merlino said she asked the Nevada Secretary of State’s office about the effort.
“The media can exit poll but there’s nothing that says special interest groups can,” Merlino said.
Inside the courthouse, a man who wouldn’t give his name, but wearing an observer label, was writing down a stick figure every time someone exited the polling place to verify voter turnout.
Paula Jones voted on the first day but said she was concerned about influencing election day voters. The early vote is kept secret until the polls close at 7 p.m. Nov. 6.
Millie Doss said it was the second time she was standing in line. She’s leaving on a trip and wanted to vote first.
Richard Callahan came at the start of early voting but left due to the printer glitch, he then returned and was told he could go to the front of the line.
“We just went home for a little while and came back,” Callahan said. “It’s Pahrump, you have to expect stuff like that in Pahrump.”
When voter registration ended Oct. 16, Nye County added 1,516 voters to the registration rolls from the close of registration two years ago. The registration rolls in Nye County, of both active and inactive voters, swelled from 25,750 to 27,266 from the 2010 general election to 2012, according to statistics from the clerk’s office.
Republicans picked up 820 voters, as people registered with the GOP increased from 11,119 to 11,939 from the close of registration in October 2010 to October 2012. When compared with the 10,743 registered Republicans four years ago, in 2008, that’s a gain of 1,196 voters, or 11 percent.
Democrats saw their numbers drop from 9,474 registered voters in Nye County in October 2008, when President Barack Obama swept into office, to 8,978 in the 2010 midterm elections when Republicans took the majority in the House of Representatives, to 8,857 today. That’s a loss of 121 voters in the past two years and 617 in the past four years, a decline of 6.5 percent.
Another 515 voters are registered as non-partisan this election, with 4,354 in that category this election compared to 3,839 in 2010 and 3,664 in 2008.
The Independent American Party can count another 270 registered voters this election, 1,804, in 2010 there were 1,534 registered with the IAP, in 2008 there were 1,377, a gain of 427 voters in four years.
Other parties stayed about the same, with 192 Libertarians in 2012 the same as 2010 and 32 members of the Green Party.
Republicans now make up 43.8 percent of the registered voters in Nye County, Democrats 32.4 percent. In 2008, Republicans comprised 42.1 percent of the Nye County registered voters and Democrats 37.1 percent, U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. won an even bigger spread in his county victory over then U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., 54.5 percent to 41.3 percent, which indicates some non-partisans must have voted for the Republican candidate..
David Beltran, Nevada press secretary for the Obama campaign, said, “The Obama campaign has built one of the biggest grass roots campaigns in history, based on neighbor-to-neighbor organizing. Our volunteers have been knocking on doors and talking to their neighbors about what is at stake in this election, as well as the importance of registering and voting early. This unprecedented grass roots efforts has led to a significant voter registration advantage statewide.”
Bill Cairns, Nye County Republican Party Central Committee chairman, said, “I believe the sentiment that America has been feeling, especially here in Nevada and rural Nevada from the economic and political policies coming from Washington through the state parties as well, people are beginning to realize we’re not going to spend our way to prosperity.”