Las Vegas Sun

October 31, 2014

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LOOKING IN ON: CLARK COUNTY

Even though the Aug. 15 primary is just a month away, the Clark County elections office has been underwhelmed.

"I've been here eight years, and for a statewide election, this is the slowest I've seen it," said Larry Lomax, the county's chief elections officer.

Last week his office stayed open an extra two hours each night to accommodate people who wanted to register to vote. Only one person took advantage of the extended hours, Lomax said.

This is the first primary since state officials moved the election date forward. Traditionally, the primary has been held in the first week of September, but lawmakers decided that didn't provide enough time between the primary and the November general election.

Lomax, however, insists the date change has nothing to do with slow pace of voter registrations.

"My experience is that the races and candidates are what bring voters out," he said.

Nearly 617,500 voters were registered countywide as of July 10, according to the election department's Web site.

Lomax said he expects a low turnout of about 25 percent of registered voters in this primary.

Residents can still register to vote until July 25, but can only do so in person at one of the county's two election offices - at the county building at 500 South Grand Central Parkway or in North Las Vegas at 965 Trade Drive, Suite A. Call 455-8683 for more information.

Early voting begins July 29.

A county press release last week appeared to have a big mistake.

A release about Commission Chairman Rory Reid's decision to ask county staff to look into the coroner's inquest process after several controversial shootings by Metro Police officers quoted Reid, but never mentioned his name. Instead, the release only referred to "the Chairman."

It turns out that was no accident.

In an attempt to ensure county press releases aren't seen as political, County Communications Director Erik Pappa is intentionally leaving out the names of commissioners who are running for office.

"It's just something I've instituted," Pappa said.

The issue of using county resources for campaign purposes came to a head in fall 2000, when former commissioner - and now convicted felon - Dario Herrera was running for a congressional seat.

Herrera made a public service announcement on the county's government access station, Channel 4. Pete O'Neil, the Independent Party's candidate for the same seat, argued that Herrera's 30-second spot on the county's new prescription-drug program amounted to free publicity - and therefore an unfair advantage - over his opponents.

In early 2001, the county banned such appearances by commissioners or other government officials who have filed for office.

"The concerns are the same," Pappa said Friday. "One doesn't want to use taxpayer-funded resources in a way that could be construed as beneficial to one's campaign."

Reid does not face a strong challenger - political novice Matthew O'Neil is his only opponent - and Reid's name won't be on the ballot until the November general election.

In a recent campaign mailer, Clark County Commissioner Myrna Williams bashes her opponent, Chris Giunchigliani, for raising taxes, a favor the veteran assemblywoman returned in a counterattack mailer.

There's no doubt the Williams flier is cute - it features Scrabble pieces that spell out G-I-U-N-C-H-I-G-L-I-A-N-I. Goodness knows, we could all use the spelling lesson, though a pronunciation key also would have been useful (i.e., june-kil-e-ON-e).

But the issue that must be raised here is that Williams is in complete violation of Scrabble rules.

Proper nouns are prohibited, and as game maker Hasbro says, "You can't win if you don't know the rules."

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