Washoe County Registrar of Voters Deanna Spikula hosted the first of what are planned to be weekly media briefings leading up election day, which is 22 days away.
Early voting begins Oct. 17 and will run for a full 14 days. The hours for all polling locations are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Spikula said that while it would be great if they were able to expand the number of polling locations, she’s pleased that hours were able to be extended. There are also an additional 15 locations that will be available for ballot drop-offs.
“We’ve had a steady stream of people dropping their ballots off at the Washoe County complex already,” Spikula said. “We’ve issued close to 300,000 ballots—and that does include some reissues to people who may have moved… We’ve had over 10,000 already returned by voters.”
The registrar’s office plans to start posting turnout numbers daily on its website. The numbers will reflect absentee ballots, mail-in ballots and early voting—though for whom they voted will not begin being tallied until much closer to the election. Spikula said she expects the largest numbers for voter turnout will be seen in early in-person voting.
“So that’s just our turnout reports,” Spikula said. “We will also start releasing unofficial results after 7 p.m. on election night—and that will also be updated up until the canvass of the votes on Nov. 16.”
The last day for people to register to vote online and still receive a mail-in ballot is Thursday, Oct. 15. The last day that the registrar’s office will reissue ballots to people who’ve lost or destroyed them is Oct. 27.
“It’s nice to see turnout this high, and there’s a lot of interest in the election this year,” Spikula said. “We always like to see a lot of interest in elections, because that’s what we do—and we want every eligible citizen to make their voice heard through voting…The fact that we have over 10,000 already is pretty promising.”
Spikula said there have not been any printing errors on ballots so far. She said the county has also not seen any fake, makeshift ballot box drop-offs like ones that have been found in California.
“The one thing we did see is our libraries, our early voting locations, people have placed their ballots in their book deposit boxes,” Spikula said. “But, again, because we’re there and have a relationship with our libraries, it’s really pretty easy for us to get those ballots and get them back into our hands. But encourage people to wait until we have our official ballot box drop-offs open. And they are manned. They’re only open during the hours that early voting and election day are open.”
Given President Donald Trump’s rhetoric in recent weeks, many people have expressed concerns of the possibility of “poll watchers” on his behalf intimidating voters who come to cast their ballots in person. Spikula said the team that will run polling locations is prepared to remedy this should it be the case.
“We always have a plan because this is not just a concern for this year. It’s always a concern for every election,” she said. “Voter intimidation is absolutely not allowed in this state. We have communicated with our poll workers, and they have information, in the event that they’re not able to de-escalate, who to call next.
“We’re always available for somebody from my staff to go out and handle issues. And if it ever gets to the point where it’s something that is going to be a significant event, they have the phone numbers for the sheriff’s office, the Reno Police Department or the Sparks Police Department that’s pre-programmed into the phone that we issue to them,” she added.
Memes and posts circulating on social media are warning voters that they could be barred from voting in person if they show up wearing politically themed clothing items. Some memes even suggest that popular masks or clothing items referencing Black Lives Matter or recently deceased Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg could result in a voter being turned away.
While items advocating for any candidate on the ballot are not allowed, the memes and social media posts are also often hyperbolic in describing what is and isn’t allowed and how voters who break those rules will be dealt with.
“There’s a distance marker for no campaigning,” Spikula said. “So, anybody’s who’s wearing anything that’s campaign-related to somebody who’s on the ballot or a ballot question—that’s not allowed. There’s no electioneering within that 100 hundred feet from the entrance to a polling location. If somebody’s wearing a hat that specifies a particular party or a candidate, we ask them to remove it. If they have a shirt on, we ask them to turn it inside out or put a jacket over it or something like that.”
To find polling locations or a list of ballot drop-off boxes, visit https://www.washoecounty.us/voters/
Jeri Chadwell came to Reno from rural Nevada in 2004 to study anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 2012, she returned to the university for a master’s degree in journalism. She is the former associate and news editor of the Reno News & Review and is a recipient of first-place Nevada Press Association awards for investigative and business reporting. Jeri is passionate about Nevada’s history, politics and communities.