By Mark Waite
The 2012 primary isn’t generating much excitement at the polls, with 2,468 voters going to vote early.
That included 2,264 people who voted early in Pahrump and 204 in Tonopah.
Nye County Clerk Sam Merlino said there was heavier turnout than normal in Tonopah, with a contested, five-way race for justice of the peace to replace Joe Maslach.
But she considered the turnout at the polls low in Pahrump, which still has a seven-way race for justice of the peace, 12 people running for two seats on the Pahrump town board and two county commission races with four candidates each.
The two all-Republican county commission races mean someone garnering more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary wins the election.
More people voted early this year than in the 2008 primary, when there was an early turnout of 2,349 voters, or 119 fewer voters. By contrast, 8,188 voted early in the 2008 general election, but turnout is generally higher during a presidential race.
In 2010, however, early voting turnout was much heavier, with 3,378 votes cast in the primary, or 910 more votes than this primary. But the early voting turnout in the 2010 general election was lower than in 2008, with only 6,471 votes cast, in an off-presidential election year, but with a number of countywide races on the ballot like sheriff and a hotly-contested district attorney’s race.
Total votes cast in 2008 were 6,021 in the primary and 17,533 in the November general election. In 2010, the number of total votes cast, both early and election day, increased to 8,896 in the primary but dropped to 14,450 in the general election.
Early voting accounted for 37.9 to 39 percent of the total vote in the 2008 and 2010 primaries, but 44.7 percent to 46.7 percent of the total vote in the general election.
The early voting turnout for this 2012 primary was 10.4 percent of the 23,636 active registered voters in Nye County. But voter turnout can be expected to increase this November in the hotly debated presidential campaign between Republican Mitt Romney and President Obama.
Early voting was heaviest in Pahrump on the first three days, with 290 people going to the polls May 26, another 339 on May 29 and 301 on May 30. The numbers then dropped steadily down to only 84 early voters on June 3, until a rebound the last three days, with 205 early voters Monday, 204 early voters Tuesday and 251 on the final day Wednesday.
Merlino explained why early voting ended on Wednesday in Pahrump, but runs through today in Tonopah. She said it takes a long time for her workers to process the heavy turnout in Pahrump, it would require clerks to work the weekend if Pahrump early voting closed Friday. The ballots also have to be transported to Tonopah.
Merlino said she tries to allot the same amount of time for early voting at each location, as early voting was only open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays in Tonopah, but scheduled from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Pahrump.
Nye County Commissioner Dan Schinhofen inquired at the Tuesday commission meeting about whether the county could ask for identification when people vote. Merlino said people are required to show identification when they register to vote, but a new state law prohibits her from forcing people to show ID when they vote.
People sign their names when they register to vote, that signature is checked when people sign in to vote, she said.
“The workers are trained to look at the signature when they sign in, compare it to the one they have on the voter registration and if it does not match, yes they can ask for ID,” Merlino said. “Once their signature matches, that is our verification.”
County commissioner Joni Eastley said the county clerk can’t dictate her own rules, but has to follow the rules adopted by the state Legislature.