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October 20, 2017

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County elections chief to serve on presidential panel to streamline voting

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Larry Lomax

President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that he plans to appoint Clark County elections chief Larry Lomax to the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, a panel designed to improve voters’ access to the polls.

Lomax, who earlier this year announced his intention to retire from the Clark County Registrar’s Office by summer, will be part of a 10-person group charged with writing a report recommending ways to shorten lines at polling places, increase efficiency and guarantee poll access to every voter.

The commission’s first meeting is expected to be held in Washington, D.C., in June.

“We have an obligation to ensure that all eligible voters have the opportunity to cast their ballots without unwarranted obstructions or unnecessary delay,” Obama said in a statement. “I am pleased that these committed individuals have agreed to offer their expertise...and I look forward to working with them in the coming months.”

The commission’s members include election lawyers, system technology experts, former public servants and the vice president of global park operations at the Walt Disney World Company, who, as Lomax jokingly noted, presumably knows more than anyone about managing lines of people.

Lomax has served as the Clark County registrar since 1999 and will finish a 15-year run on June 14.

In that time, he’s orchestrated changes to the election process he said he thinks could be valuable examples to the commission.

“I don’t really know why they picked me...but I would hope one of the reasons is that we don’t have lines here in Clark County, though we’re a very large county,” Lomax said. “We have an aggressive early voting program, a no-fault mail program, and then Election Day polling. The combination of the three and the way we do it by getting into the community, it works here.”

But, Lomax was careful to add, he doesn’t think the Clark County model necessarily can be exported elsewhere in the country.

“Voting is very cultural,” said Lomax, who was exposed to a variety of voting practices during his 30 years in the Air Force when he lived in 18 different places. “People tend to feel very strongly that the way they do [voting] is the best.”

Prior to the 2000 election debacle that ended in the Supreme Court’s Bush v. Gore decision, Lomax said, the federal government was hardly visible in election administration.

States were largely left to their own devices to determine how to run their polling station in observance of federal laws, and counties took over the administration, depending on how much control state governments wanted to exert over the system.

That changed in 2002 with the Help America Vote Act, which sought to impose minimum administrative standards and promote the use of voting machines. Clark County standardized its voting machines with the help of HAVA funds.

Lomax guessed that the purpose of the Commission would not be to institute changes and laws as sweeping as that.

“I don’t think the goal is to standardize voting across the country, just because there are so many different cultures,” Lomax said. “I think we’ll identify ways that are proven to work and, hopefully, people can pick and choose.”

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