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July 30, 2014

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Many voter registration forms turned in late

If you recently signed a canvasser's clipboard and thought you were on your way to voting in both the Sept. 7 primary and the Nov. 2 election, you might want to double-check, Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax said on Monday.

Several organizations that are registering new voters failed to turn in applications by the Aug. 7 deadline for the primary, Lomax said. As a result, more than 1,500 people are not signed up for the primary, he said.

The voters in question can still vote in the general election. If they appear at the Election Department office in North Las Vegas in person today, they can still register for the primary. Today marks the end of the 10-day grace period for primary registration.

The 1,500 applications were turned in a full week late, Lomax said, on this past Saturday, Aug. 14.

Election officials said four organizations were responsible for the late forms: the National Voter Fund, the Voter Empowerment Project, RJ&L, and the Republican State Fund.

On Monday, the groups offered different explanations for the apparent lapse. Some denied Lomax's charge totally or in part; others said it was possible that some forms had been mislaid in the frenzy of their outreach efforts.

All four groups said the Election Department never informed them of the problem. They said they learned of the late applications only when alerted by reporters, who received a news release from Lomax on Monday morning.

"If the Election Department wanted people to vote in the primaries, rather than sending out a press release they could call those people and inform them that there's a 10-day grace period," said Billy Rogers, president of the Southwest Strategies political consulting firm, which he said subsumed RJ&L recently.

"Is this about a press release, or is it about ensuring that people can vote in the primary?" asked Rogers, a veteran Democratic pollster who has also tangled with Lomax over his group's efforts to get a petition legalizing small amounts of marijuana on the ballot.

Rogers disputed Lomax's allegation that his group didn't turn in registrations until Aug. 14. Rather, he said, 46 applications were turned in late on Aug. 9, the Monday after the Saturday deadline, because a canvasser was too sick to turn them in on time.

"What we did was different than those other groups," Rogers said.

But the other groups did not have a consistent explanation either. Brian Turner, Voter Empowerment Project coordinator, said, "For us, it was probably just the fact that we have so many registration forms going through us. We just didn't get them in on time."

Turner said about 200 of the late forms came from his organization, which he said was part of a national nonpartisan drive. He would not disclose what cause his group was affiliated with but said it was not part of another national effort by that name aimed registering people who currently suffer or have suffered from mentally illness.

But whether people are registered for the primary wasn't a big deal to his organization, Turner said. "We weren't really worried about the primary," he said. "We want people to vote in the presidential election more than anything."

Similarly, the Republican Fund suffered from a simple oversight, said Chris Carr, executive director of the state Republican Party.

"We're just getting in so many forms per day," he said.

"If they come in over the weekend and we miss a deadline, I hate that, because I want as many Republicans voting in the primary as possible," he added.

The National Voter Fund denies turning in any late applications, organizer Bobbie Mullins said. "Actually, I got them in on time," she said.

Mullins said the Election Department warned her that the deadline was approaching, prompting her to take extra steps to make sure her group -- part of a national effort affiliated with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People -- made it on time.

On Aug. 7, "I had 700 forms at Kinko's, and Mr. Lomax called me and said these people would be disenfranchised if I didn't get them in," Mullins said. She said she tracked down the manager of the copy shop to open the store and retrieve the forms that day.

Mullins accused the Election Department of not being able to handle this year's influx of voter registrations. The unprecedented influx is a result of the county's explosive growth and the contentiousness of this year's election, experts have said.

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