Officials with the Washoe County Registrar of Voters on Wednesday gave the news media a tour of their recently updated office and talked about efforts to balance transparency and ballot security.
Jamie Rodriguez, government affairs manager for Washoe County, showed the chain of custody for ballots and how precautions are taken so no ballot is overlooked or misread. This goes from using technology down to making sure there are not trash cans in any of the vote-counting areas.
Citizens play a role by properly filling out their ballots.
“It’s really important to read the instructions on your ballot,” she said.
Until the 2020 election, observers watching the vote count were allowed, but the opportunity was not well-known and often went relatively unused. However in 2020, with former President Trump stoking election integrity fears and encouraging people to become observers, the role of poll watcher became sought after by more people.
Ballot counting was also more intensive. Rodriguez said that in previous years the observers’ area was little more than two chairs from where people could see what was happening.
Now, though, a much larger viewing area will be constructed for observers and will likely be used by up to six observers at a time. The area will be enclosed by a short wall about three feet high with windows extending to the ceiling. The enclosure is intended to ensure security in the ballot processing areas and eliminate the possibility of ballots being taken or tampered with by observers.
“We were very specific in how we set everything up,” Rodriguez said. The viewing area has also been moved so observers can see everything happening in the ballot processing and counting areas. Observers, as in the past, will not be allowed to bring recording devices or disrupt the counting process.
Rodriguez also mentioned the importance of the secret ballot, explaining that there are elements that observers should not see, like who voted for whom. In addition to in-person opportunities to observe the count, the county will also be livestreaming the entirety of the counting process.
Washoe County’s primary election is scheduled for June 14. Early voting is May 28 – June 10. More information on voting dates, times and locations along with candidate profiles is online at https://www.washoecounty.gov/voters/elections/index.php.
Ty O’Neil is a lifelong student of anthropology with two degrees in the arts. He is far more at home in the tear gas filled streets of war torn countries than he is relaxing at home. He has found a place at This Is Reno as a photojournalist. He hopes to someday be a conflict photojournalist covering wars and natural disasters abroad.