Las Vegas Sun

June 19, 2019

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Q&A with UNLV professor on early voting

If you are in line to vote you cannot be turned away’

David Damore

David Damore

Election Day is anticlimactic for most voters, who can’t wait for the phone calls to cease and the direct mail to stop. Early voting began in Southern Nevada in 1994 as a limited pilot program and was established in Clark County for the 1996 elections.

Since 2000, more people in Clark County have voted before Election Day than on Election Day. By 2012, between early voting and absentee voting, 69.3 percent of those in Nevada who voted in the presidential election in 2012 did so before Election Day, an increase from 66.9 percent in 2008.

The Sun asked David Damore, a political science professor at UNLV, about early voting in Clark County.

Describe how early voting came to be in Nevada.

My understanding is it is used here for two reasons: No. 1, to ensure maximum participation, particularly for people who work nights and may sleep during the day. No. 2, the simple fact that there would not be enough poll locations to accommodate Election Day voting given the state’s growth.

Also, the technology for mail voting is very different. It is much more expensive to process mail votes. By giving people two weeks to vote early, which uses the same technology as Election Day voting, it reduces the need for a large mail-voting operation.

How it has expanded?

The parties, particularly the Democrats, have incorporated it into their get-out-the-vote activity. The Republicans are well behind in this. Since the perception is that it gives marginal voters, who are more likely to vote Democrat, more opportunity to vote, the Republicans would like to reduce it. They tried to do so in 2015, but it was killed as part of the Legislative session’s give and take, but you did see reductions in lots of other states where the GOP took over after 2014.

It also is a bit habit-forming. Once people get used to it, they are more likely to vote early in the future, perhaps in hopes that the campaigns will stop bothering them.

What about the long-standing tradition of letting people vote past a closing time as long as they are in line?

That is the law: If you are in line to vote, you cannot be turned away.

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