New tech increases ballot access at polls
This election, Douglas County residents will get to vote pretty much anywhere they want … sort of.
Electronic poll books will permit a streamlined check-in process, and will allow voters to cast a ballot at any polling place on Election Day, according to Clerk-Treasurer Kathy Lewis.
“The most exciting part of that is that on Election Day you can vote wherever you want to vote,” Lewis said. “You don’t have to vote at your polling location.”
But connecting the poll books to the county’s secure server and voter database requires reliable internet.
There are also fewer of the new voting machines, so those polling places that served fewer than 800 voters and were located closer than seven miles to another location won’t be polling places this year.
Lewis said that means voters won’t be casting ballots at the fire stations in Sheridan Acres and Ruhenstroth. Fish Springs will be the site for early voting, Election Clerk Dena Abeyta said, but not on Election Day.
“We are reducing polling locations mainly because of the electronic poll books,” Lewis said. “We need to have connectivity wherever we are to be able to allow people to vote at the location they prefer. We’re hoping that by letting people vote anywhere they want, it won’t be that major an issue.”
Gardnerville and Minden polling places will be combined at the Douglas County Community & Senior Center in Gardnerville.
Voters will also be able to cast ballots at the Sunridge, Johnson Lane, Gardnerville Ranchos and Topaz Ranch Estates fire stations. The Washoe Elder Center, Genoa Town Hall and Kahle Community Center will round out the polling locations this year.
“With electronic poll books, we won’t have the paper rosters anymore when you check in,” Lewis said. “It will be a similar concept to early voting. We’ll check you in and you’ll sign a tablet, and we’ll verify the signature there.”
Because the poll books will update voter records in real time, poll workers will know whether someone has checked in at another location.
While the voting machines will be new, voters won’t see a big change in how they work.
“It is the same look and feel,” Lewis said. “It will be the same touch screen they’re used to, it’s just on a giant tablet instead of the machines we had.”
Of the almost 28,000 Douglas residents who cast a ballot in the 2016 presidential election, slightly more than a third actually turned out to a polling place on Election Day. More than 17,658 voters cast ballots either early or absentee.
In 2016, nearly 11 percent of voters mailed in their ballot, but a new law may make that option more attractive.
A new law allows any voter who says they have a disability or is 65 or older to permanently obtain an absentee ballot.
The new system will be in place in time for early voting leading up to the June 12 primary election.
As of Monday, countywide races for sheriff, assessor, and both county commission seats will appear on the primary ballot.
Under primary rules approved by the 2015 Legislature and thanks to Douglas County’s large Republican majority, partisan races will essentially be resolved in the primary.
Nonpartisan races, such as sheriff, can be resolved if one of the candidates gets more than 50 percent of the vote.
For information, visit http://www.govotedouglas.com.