Thursday, Nov. 6, 2008 | 2 a.m.
Hours after the nation knew Barack Obama would be the next president and local supporters started the celebration at the Rio, Democrat Dina Titus was waiting upstairs for word on whether she had unseated Republican incumbent Jon Porter in the contentious race for the 3rd Congressional District.
Early results looked good, but about 10:30 p.m. — with Titus’ lead narrowing — no one could yet call the race. About a third of the votes were unreported.
Everyone waited for the next update. And waited, and waited. Some celebrants started shuffling home while Titus and Porter cooled their heels. At the same time, Democrat Shirley Breeden was wondering whether she was going to beat incumbent state Sen. Joe Heck in an even tighter race.
Finally, at about 11:30 p.m., the final votes were announced.
Why the hourlong delay? Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax said he was doing media interviews.
Although the vote count continued, underlings were waiting for Lomax to give word to update the results. (The counting process has to stop temporarily in order to report results, so the county can’t post numbers continuously.)
Lomax didn’t delegate the decision to release fresher results while he was tied up with TV reporters. He said he has the best feel for when to update.
So the tabulation team — and Titus and Porter, and Breeden and Heck — waited for him.
That was the only hiccup in a mostly trouble-free Election Day. Secretary of State Ross Miller didn’t have a lot to do, and neither did the hundreds of lawyers who poured into Nevada for the election. In fact, with all the hype about voter fraud and posturing by both sides about lawsuits, the mechanics of the election were practically as smooth as the presidential election was historic.
A couple of factors helped the day along. Foremost, the huge number of voters who cast ballots during early voting — more than 560,000 — eased the pressure Tuesday. The state also planned well by dramatically increasing the number of voting machines available and having polling trailers that could be dispatched to deal with overflow. It also helped that voters showed up at the polls at a steady pace throughout the day rather than the heavy turnout typically seen after 3 p.m.
There were only a few minor incidents at polling places throughout the day.
Some poll watchers on behalf of the Obama and John McCain campaigns got a little pushy with voters and poll workers, Lomax said.
“To be a poll watcher you have to sign an affidavit that says you will not talk to voters in a polling place,” Lomax said. “Many of them found that difficult to comply with.”
There was exaggerated tattling from both sides about the other, requiring Lomax to chase them down. For example, one report said the AFL-CIO had taken over a polling place. It turned out that the union had a picture of one of the candidates in the parking lot. The photo was removed and that was that.
The ACLU also said it received 150 calls from voters who had trouble casting provisional ballots, and Executive Director Gary Peck said he wants the state to better educate poll workers on the law. Still, he commended the state for the way the election was run.
As for Titus? She finally gave her acceptance speech to a diminished audience at 11:15 — not waiting for any more updates but relying on pundits who concluded she would win. The long-delayed update finally came 15 minutes later, confirming her win — and Breeden’s.