Monday, Oct. 18, 2004 | 11:02 a.m.
More than 27,000 Clark County voters went to the polls for the first two days of early voting this weekend, many spurred by their strong convictions in the presidential race and others drawn by the convenience.
Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax estimated about 8,500 more voters cast their ballots during the first two days of early voting this year than in 2000, the last time the presidential race was on the ballot.
Suzanne Rutledge, 75, of Henderson, said voting early at the Galleria at Sunset mall lets her avoid the long lines of Election Day, and besides, she is "very much for Bush," and said she doesn't plan on changing her mind.
"I can't stand Kerry. So I don't think I have much of a choice," she said about the race between President Bush and Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.
On the other side of the political fence were Curt and Marsha Smith, also of Henderson, who support the Massachusetts senator.
"If, God forbid, Kerry should die in a plane crash tomorrow I still wouldn't vote for Bush," Curt Smith, 60, a Navy Vietnam War veteran, said. "I've been to war. So I know it should be an absolute last resort. Our young men are the ones who pay for it.
"And I don't like the idea of building the deficit."
Marsha Smith, 53, said she also was a strong supporter of the ballot questions asking for more money for police officers and education.
Mark Chubb, 34, of Las Vegas, voted early at the Meadows mall so he wouldn't have to take off of work to go to the polls. His wife, Heather, said she went so she wouldn't have to take their 16-month-old son to the polls by herself later.
Both said they also wanted to make sure they cast their votes in the presidential race, in which they are supporting Kerry in part because of his stand against a proposed nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain.
Overall, 14,204 voters cast their ballots Saturday, and more than 13,092 more voted Sunday, which election officials said was a marked increase from the roughly 9,700 and 8,000 that cast ballots the first two days of early voting in 2000.
In 2000, 167,522 people cast a ballot during early voting for the general election. That was slightly more than the 167,317 who voted on Election Day.
The voting appeared to go smoothly over the weekend.
Voter registration problems that have been highly publicized in recent days didn't seem to cause problems at the polls, although many voters had strong feelings on the matter.
A private group funded by the Republican Party is accused of destroying registration forms they gathered from people who tried to register as Democrats.
Freeman Hardin, 60, a car salesman from Las Vegas, cast his ballot Sunday at the Meadows mall too. Hardin said the alleged problems with registration are a travesty.
"I am glad that I went to the government center myself to register," he said.
Dean DeVolpi, 47, an engineer from Boulder City, said if the allegations are true: "The perpetrators of that should lose their right to vote in this country."
People who claim they registered to vote, but whose names could not be found on the registration rolls were given the choice of filling out a provisional ballot on Sunday. However, those ballots are only for the federal races, and would only be counted if the person can later show proof that they registered.
Damian Thorman, a volunteer with the John Kerry presidential campaign, and poll watcher at the Meadows mall, said he knew of three cases over the weekend of people who went to vote only to hear that their names weren't on the registration rolls.
He said the Democrats set up a hotline, 877-WE-VOTE2 to take complaints from voters turned away.
Bill Pendarvis, an election officer working the early voting site at the Galleria mall in Henderson, said three people cast provisional ballots at his location on Sunday.
Elsa Garcia, an administrator with the Clark County Election Department who is running the early voting at the Meadows mall, said two people were offered provisional ballots Sunday but declined them.
She said the crowds will vary from day to day, with the first couple days being very busy, and then again towards the end of early voting on Oct. 29, which she said will be chaotic.
"Everyone who comes to vote, we just ask that they be patient," Garcia said.
Early voting is available at eight permanent sites through Oct. 29. Election Day is Nov. 2.
The early voting sites are the Boulevard mall, Meadows mall, Galleria at Sunset, Las Vegas Outlet Center, Centennial Center, Clark County Government Center, on Industrial Road behind the Mirage, and the Las Vegas Athletic Club at 5200 W. Sahara Ave.
Additional early voting sites rotate among many locations, mostly supermarkets.