Washoe County is seeing a high turnout for early voting as interest in the 2020 election continues leading into the final days of early voting.
“We are definitely in the full swing of an election, and four more days of early voting to go,” said Washoe County Registrar of Voters Deanna Spikula on Monday, Oct. 26, during her second-to-last media briefing before Election Day.
So far, she said, the voter turnout has been quite high for both in-person early voting and mail-in ballots. As of Oct. 26, 154,034 Washoe County residents had voted. Early voting ends in Nevada on Friday, Oct. 30. It’s worth noting that early voting or Election Day voting may be done at any polling location in the county. Voters need not go to their usually assigned locations.
Spikula also stressed that if a person has not received a mail-in ballot yet and does not intend to vote in person, they should be reaching out to her office as soon as possible to have a ballot sent to them with enough time for it to be completed and postmarked by Nov. 3.
Those who’ve received two ballots—as a result of having changed addresses or otherwise—need to know which one to return. Spikula explained that voters can look at the numbers beneath the barcode on the return envelopes to make the determination. One number will be higher, and that is the one to return. The ballot with the lower number, she said, has been invalidated.
Spikula’s office began counting mail-in ballots on Monday, Oct. 26. It has made available a livestream of this process on the Washoe County YouTube channel to allow people to watch as the ballots are processed and prepared to be scanned.
Changes made to Nevada’s voting process by the passage of Assembly Bill 4 during the second special session of the state legislature allow early ballot counting. Spikula said her office expects to have every ballot it’s received through the mail and at drop-off locations processed by Election Day.
“We’ll be able to move forward with early reporting after polls have closed on Election Day,” Spikula said. “All polls across the state have to be closed before we can start releasing those unofficial results. So, just a reminder, we can start releasing those unofficial results on Election Day, but it will have to be after all of the polls have closed.”
Polls close at 7 p.m. across the state. However, if people are in line prior to 7 p.m. at any polling location, that location must remain open until every person has had an opportunity to cast a vote.
Spikula’s office has also been doing livestreams from what it calls “Election Central.”
“From our back-office area,” Spikula explained. “And that is where we provide absentee ballot information and also where all of our polling locations on election night report to. So, on election night we’ll have a livestream, and you’ll be able to watch all of our polling locations check in with us.”
The livestream of ballot processing will take place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. Spikula noted that individuals can also arrange with her office to come in person to observe their work.
Spikula also addressed questions concerning poll watchers, saying that voters should understand that these types of observers have long been common during elections. While the Clark County Registrar of Voters and the Nevada Secretary of State’s office are being sued by the Trump campaign and state Republicans in an attempt to stop early vote processing over allegedly not accommodating observers, Washoe County has thus far not come under fire.
Asked why she thought Washoe County had not become embroiled in a similar lawsuit, Spikula said she really wasn’t sure.
“I’m hoping that we’re just doing the best that we can here in Washoe to provide that transparency and access to our process here,” Spikula said.
She also said people outside of polling locations gathering signatures for a petition to recall Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak are acting within their rights. These people are allowed to be at the public sites, like the libraries and county buildings. It is up to property owners if the petition gatherers are allowed to be on location at polling sites on private property, like grocery stores.
Spikula explained that next steps in the petition would not be taken until after the election, sometime in mid to late November. The process will include verifying signatures to begin with in order to determine if the petition gathered enough to move forward.
Washoe County residents can expect to begin receiving unofficial results from the election on Nov. 3 but should be aware that official results will not be released until the canvas of the votes on Nov. 16.
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.