Clark County election officials recommend large-scale mail-in ballot distribution for general election

Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria recommended to the Clark County Commission on Friday that voters be sent mail-in ballots for November’s general election, just as they were in the June primary, but with more in-person options too. 

The recommendation was made based on Gloria’s expectation that not only will the county see 90 percent voter turnout, but voting sites and poll workers will still be subject to social distancing requirements as a result of COVID-19.

“Coronavirus will need to be dealt with in the next election. There’s no reason to believe that it’s mysteriously going to go away. We’ll still have to make sure that we’re social distancing at all of our polling places,” Gloria said during a special meeting. “Which creates an extreme challenge for us when we’re trying to serve, what I think will be a 90 percent turnout in the general election.”

The commission generally agreed with Gloria’s recommendations, with Commissioners Marilyn Kirkpatrick, Justin Jones, Larry Brown, Michael Naft and Tick Segerblom all expressing support.

According to Gloria, if mail-in ballots are not automatically sent to registered voters, the plan would be to send over 900,000 mail ballot requests in Clark County, which would then have to be returned so the election department can send out the requested ballot. This could be confusing for voters and difficult for election workers.

“When voters receive those, they think that maybe their voter registration has been cancelled, although it’s a mail ballot request,” he said. “If they choose to use them and send them in, there will be a tremendous burden on my staff to get those manually entered into the system.”

Jones expressed concerns over the cost of sending out inactive ballots to voters in November, a decision that was controversial in the primary election and has resulted in an active lawsuit filed by Republicans in the state.

Gloria stated that the cost of sending out the 200,000 ballots to inactive voters was more than $200,000, not including the costs incurred if those ballots were returned undeliverable. In order for a voter to be considered inactive, a piece of election mail sent to that voter must come back undeliverable, but inactive voters do not have their registration disqualified and can still vote by updating their addresses.

“Because in the primary there was no other way for people to vote, it seemed like that was a necessary thing,” Jones said. “Because there is an alternative means to vote in the general — in person — I don’t think that the cost is probably justified, certainly not to those for whom you received returned ballots.”

Brown also raised concerns about the potential for individuals to double vote, casting one by mail and one in person. Gloria assured the commission that the multiple checks in place would prevent two ballots from the same voter being counted.

“We’ve been voting mail ballots for a long time, so these processes are already in place. It was always the ability of the voter to come in and say, ‘Yeah, I asked for a mail ballot but decided I didn’t want to vote with it,’” Gloria said.

While discussing the process of vote canvassing earlier in the meeting, Gloria also mentioned that only one provisional ballot cast in person in the Clark County primary had been rejected because the voter cast multiple ballots.

In addition to mailing out ballots to registered voters, Gloria said that election officials are looking to provide 35 in-person voting sites where voting machines would be used, including 20 locations open permanently throughout the early voting period at government facilities.

“By using government facilities, I will be able to control the social distancing in all of these sites, which I think is very important,” he said.

The commission was not able to officially vote on election processes for the general election on Friday and was limited to making recommendations.