Election Day is nearly upon us. This guide should be of use if you have any questions about voting in person or dropping off your ballot on Nov. 3—or if you want to know more about the process for tallying votes or how to observe it.
Voting on Election Day
There will be 29 in-person voting locations in Washoe County and 16 ballot drop-off locations on Election Day. Mail-in ballots may be dropped at either. Voters who’ve already dropped or mailed their ballots can sign up to track their ballot’s status through a service called ballottrax.
Polling and ballot drop-off locations will all be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and voters may choose whichever among them is most convenient; voters don’t need to visit their assigned precinct location this year. The Washoe County Registrar of Voters recommends using an app on its website called “Wait Time” to determine which polling location may be their best option. The app does not need to be installed on a person’s device for them to use it.
Voters planning to cast their ballots in person should be aware that it is not necessary to surrender their mailed paper ballots at the polling location. While this concern has been raised and misinformation about it perpetuated on social media, a person who does not have their paper ballot may still vote after signing an affidavit affirming they have not and will not vote twice.
Voters planning to go to the polls in person on Election Day have also raised concerns about the presence of poll watchers and the possibility of agitators or even armed militia people at voting locations. However, poll workers and volunteers have been trained to handle incidents likely to arise and there will be a police presence at polls to prevent voter intimidation and other issues.
Last week, Reno Police Chief Jason Soto told This Is Reno that his department has authorized overtime for its officers on Nov. 3.
“Really, what we want to do is make sure that all of our voters feel like they’re in a safe environment, that there’s no intimidation or anything of that manner going on,” he said.
Soto also said officers have been trained to know what’s allowed at polling locations, and what is not. What is not allowed: electioneering, wearing clothing that advocates for a particular candidate or cause and even things like recording cell phone videos.
Additionally, Washoe County Registrar of Voters Deanna Spikula has said her office made plans with all local law enforcement agencies—including RPD, the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office and Sparks Police Department—to ensure voter safety and respond in the event of voter intimidation or other misbehavior at polling locations.
She also explained that poll watching is not new to the 2020 election. Observers have long been common during elections. There are, in fact, multiple ways a person can be an observer, either online or in person.
Observing the elections process
As previously mentioned, while poll watching is perfectly legal, certain rules must be observed. Those who wish to observe a polling location may not engage in electioneering or intimidation. They also may not take photos or record video. Poll watchers will also be advised by poll workers where they’re allowed to be at any given polling or ballot drop-off site.
Those who wish to observe the tallying process online have several options to do so.
Spikula’s office has been conducting livestreams from what it calls “Election Central.”
Election Central is the registrar’s back-office area where ballots are processed and where all of the county’s polling locations will report to when polls close on Election Night.
“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,” Spikula said.
The registrar’s office will begin livestreaming the ballot intake area at 7 p.m. on Election Night. This will run until all vote center and drop-off ballots are received. This livestream will be broadcast into the Washoe County Commission Chambers on the first floor of the County Complex at 1001 E. Ninth St, Bldg. A. It will also be broadcast on WCTV (Charter Channel 193) and on the county’s YouTube channel.
During the day, Twitter and Facebook will be resources for updates from the registrar’s office. Both can be found using the handle @washoecounty and the hashtag #WashoeVotes.
It’s important to note that while the livestream of the ballot intake area will begin at 7 p.m., unofficial results will not begin to be released until after all polling locations across the state have closed.
Tallying votes and receiving final results
The registrar’s office will make a results dashboard available on its website to display unofficial results beginning Election Night after the last polling location in the state has closed and it receives clearance from Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske’s office.
Washoe County has received a record number of mail-in ballots as a result of changes to Nevada’s election rules made by the passage of Assembly Bill 4 during the second special session of the state legislature back in August.
However, also as a result of the passage of AB4, Spikula said her office does not anticipate any major delays in the tallying of these votes—as the bill also contained language allowing registrars’ offices to begin processing these ballots at an earlier date. Processing ballots includes signature verification and preparing them to be tallied. Her office began processing ballots on Monday, Oct. 26, and expects to have all mail-in ballots received through early voting processed by Election Day.
Official results from the election will not be presented to the Board of County Commissioners until Nov. 16 at 10 a.m., following the canvass of the vote. And the registrar’s office will continue to count and tally some ballots for up to 10 days following the election.
This is the first election in which voters can register to vote and vote on the same day after lawmakers authorized the practice in 2019 through the passage of Assembly Bill 345. The registrar’s office will have up to 10 days to verify the eligibility of votes cast by same-day registrants.
In addition to same-day registration votes, Spikula’s office will also need to verify the eligibility of votes cast provisionally under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). The act was passed by Congress in 2002 to make sweeping reforms to the nation’s voting process and address issues with voting systems and voter access that were identified following the 2000 presidential election.
A HAVA provisional ballot is given to a voter when they affirm they are registered and eligible to vote in the county, but voting staff is unable to find records to corroborate this. If a voter presents I.D. in this case, their ballot will be counted if further research shows they’re eligible to register to vote. If a person does not show I.D. when voting this way, they’ll have until 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 6, to present an acceptable form of I.D. to the registrar’s office—after which, their eligibility to vote in Washoe County must be confirmed for their vote to be counted.
Mail-in ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 will be accepted and counted for seven days following the election–through Nov. 10.
Election facts v. myths
The Nevada Secretary of State’s office has put together a fact sheet to clear up voting misinformation. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a federal agency created in 2018, likewise has a myths v. facts page. So, too, does the Washoe County Registrar’s office.
At the top of the registrar’s page is a warning for voters who may have been advised to try to verify the status of their mail-in ballots by also attempting to vote in person. This is illegal, but has not stopped President Donald Trump for recommending voters attempt it.
According to the registrar’s office, “attempting to vote more than once in the same election is a serious crime” that carries a penalty of up to four years in prison.
In addition to having the ability to sign up for the ballottrax service, voters can login to the Secretary of State’s voter services website and confirm that their ballots have been received, or they can contact the county election office directly.
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.