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Navigating Outdated Systems To Vote In Nevada

Nevada polling station.
Julie Jacobson/AP Photo

Nevada polling station.

Nevada is set to figure big in the 2016 election.

Not only might we be the deciding state in the presidential election, but who we elect in the Senate race to replace Sen. Harry Reid may determine the balance of power in Congress.

And two ballot measures – on legalized marijuana and firearms background checks – will bring people to the polls in droves.

Are we ready for this? Is our election system set to handle the influx of voters? On machines that were built more than 15 years ago?

Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria is certain he can keep the voting machines healthy through the 2016 election, but he's not sure how much magic he and his staff can work after this.

"We definitely need to start that conversation and the time to plan is now," Gloria told KNPR's State of Nevada, "Nobody plans to fail, they fail to plan."

Gloria said the 4,500 voting computers used for big elections like the one coming up next year don't need to be replaced at once, but they do need to look at phasing them out and replacing them. 

Yet, in legislative hearings earlier this year, most of the questions Gloria was asked were about voter fraud - which he says is almost non-existant.

"Voter fraud is not an issue we see happening in a large scale in Clark County or the state of Nevada," he said.

One of the biggest issues, according to Gloria, is getting clear and accurate information from the DMV - which allows people to register to vote when they get their driver's licenses under the so-called Moter-Voter law.

Right now, the system is done on paper instead of digitally. So Gloria's team is taking almost 40,000 voter registrations and typing them in by hand - trying their best to decipher each voter's handwriting. The fix, says, Gloria, is a programming one. He suggests more money be spent on improving getting the DMV's systems to talk to the registrar's systems than on preventing voter fraud.

Nevada is a Caucus State

Before, we actually go to the polls in November 2016, the state will help pick the candidates for president. 

However, Nevada is a caucus state. That means people get together and essentially have a meeting about who they want to be the Democratic or Republican nominee.

Some people are put off by this, but Sondra Cosgrove from t he League of Women Voters of Nevada demystified the caucus process.

First, the caucuses are not run by the state or by the county. They're run by the parties and the parties make up the rules about how they are run.

Second, Nevada is a closed caucus system. 

"So people need to be aware, if you want to caucus this year you have to be affiliated with the party you are going  to caucus with," Cosgrove said.

She also pointed out that if a voter wants to change their party affiliation to be part of the caucus, it will take 48 hours through the state or county.

However, if someone wants to change party affiliation from non-partisan to Democrat, representatives  will be able to do it at the caucus, according to Cosgrove.

The Republicans have not decided if they're going to institute same-day party changes. 

The exact date of the caucuses has not been decided. Where they'll be held have not be determined either. Cosgrove is hoping the decisions will be made soon.

As for the primary, which takes place in June, Gloria said his team is already working on sample ballots, polling places and voter registration cards, which everyone who is registered should get in January.


Joe Gloria, Clark Country Registrar of Voters;  Sondra Cosgrove, president of the Nevada chapter of the League of Women Voters

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(EDITOR'S NOTE: Carrie Kaufman no longer works for KNPR News. She left in April 2018)