Friday, Aug. 20, 2004 | 9:38 a.m.
The county's 740 new touch-screen voting machines are tested and waiting for Clark County voters who will cast early voting ballots.
Early voting starts Saturday at selected libraries, malls, churches and grocery stores and continues through Sept. 3. The actual primary will be held at polling places on Sept. 7.
In the 2002 primary, 44 percent of all of the Clark County votes were cast during early voting, and county election officials expect a similar number this year.
At stake are several tough primary races for the Legislature and county commission, as well as nonpartisan judicial races in which all voters, regardless of their party, can cast ballots.
Six Republicans also will duke it out to challenge Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., in the general election.
The county had about 200 of the new touch-screen machines in the 2002 election, said Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax.
But this year, all machines have a printer allowing voters to scan a paper version of their ballot and approve it before the votes are electronically logged.
The county is confident that all the machines are ready for voters, Lomax said.
"We've tested the heck out of this and we haven't had a single hiccup over testing," he said.
Lomax said it's almost impossible to tamper with the machines.
"It has safeguards in it," he said. "You can't do anything to the software without the machine, in essence, shutting itself down."
Polling places should be busy -- the county has processed about 40,000 voter registration cards in the past three weeks and now has 593,912 registered active voters.
In all, almost 765,000 voters are registered, though that includes people who might have moved. People can fill out change-of-address forms at early voting sites, Lomax said.
Voters, especially active Republicans and Democrats, can expect to receive an increasing number of campaign mailers and phone calls in what already has been a politically active season, said campaign consultant Dan Hart.
The increasing popularity of early voting "fundamentally changes" the way campaigns now function, Hart said. In the past week, many candidates have stepped up their television advertisements.
"That is, I would suspect, the most prudent way to go about this," Hart said.
Candidates and supporters in especially tight districts might canvass neighborhoods around early voting sites to remind them to vote, will make phone calls to potential voters and even host backyard barbecues and then shuttle voters to voting sites, Hart said.