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election day:

Polls close amid light municipal election turnout

Voters deciding mayoral, city council races

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Kyle B. Hansen

David Sweningsen joins his parents, Jean and Charles, in voting at Garrett Middle School in Boulder City.

Updated Tuesday, June 2, 2009 | 7 p.m.

Municipal General Election

David Sweningsen joins his parents, Jean and Charles, in voting at Garrett Middle School in Boulder City. Launch slideshow »

Polls closed at 7 p.m. across Southern Nevada as voters decided races in five Clark County municipalities. County Registrar Larry Lomax said turnout was light.

By 3 p.m., 8,563 voters had cast a ballot in the five county municipalities, including Mesquite. In Clark County, 277,253 people are eligible to vote in this election. Voters in the unincorporated areas of the county and in Las Vegas outside Ward 4 couldn't participate.

"We're not seeing any problems, but we certainly could use a few more voters," Lomax said. He said the light turnout was in line with normal turnout for the municipal primaries.

Two mayoral offices, four city council seats and a judgeship were on the line as voters in the Las Vegas Valley and Boulder City headed to the polls.

Early voting concluded Friday, with 21,201 Clark County voters casting their ballot during the two-week period. The number is down slightly from early voting for April's primary election, which drew 22,942 voters en route to an overall turnout of 10.42 percent.

Turnout for municipal general elections in Clark County has decreased in every election since 1999, falling from a high that year of 23.58 percent to a low in 2007 of 11.58 percent.

Lomax said if recent trends hold up, the early voting totals will represent about half of the total number of ballots cast, which would mean the county could possibly top 11.58 percent and stop the downward trend.

But even if it does, he said, that's not saying much.

"It's a sad commentary, quite frankly, when you're electing your mayor and a part of your city council, and only 14 to 15 percent of registered voters are participating, and not everyone's even registered," Lomax said. "It's a very small percentage of the population that's making these decisions."

Lomax said he likes to remind voters that "you can't complain if you don't participate," and he stresses the oft-overlooked importance of municipal offices.

"Your local officials can have every bit as much impact on your life as the bigger offices that may draw higher turnout," he said.

In light of those voting trends, most candidates have opted for highly targeted campaigns that focus on residents who have steady voting histories. On Saturday, many of the candidates gathered with supporters for their last big walk and kept light schedules Monday to prepare for get-out-the-vote efforts and long hours on Election Day.

LAS VEGAS

Polls opened at 7 a.m. at Desert Vista Community Center in Las Vegas and early morning voters were a trickle. By 9 a.m., 43 voters had cast a ballot, said poll worker Cathy Hall.

"We're much slower than we usually are," she said. "Turnout here is usually pretty high. This is a site where the turnout is pretty heavy all day."

The site saw about 550 voters during the municipal primary but turnout likely won't be that high today, Hall said.

"Two months ago, we were so busy I couldn't believe it," said poll worker Paul Masqueller.

In Las Vegas, residents of City Council Ward 4 are choosing between council candidates Stavros Anthony, a Metro Police captain and member of the state Board of Regents, and Glenn Trowbridge, chairman of the Las Vegas Planning Commission. By 3 p.m., 1,223 people had voted in addition to the 2,611 people who voted early.

Frances M. Sudol, who was casting her ballot at the community center this morning, noted how heavily the two candidates campaigned. She said she had received a large number of mailers, phone calls and visits from candidates at her door.

"They both really wanted it," said Sudol, who declined to name which candidate earned her vote.

"It seems like a lot of people are interested ... (the campaigns) have been canvassing the neighborhood and making phone calls," voter Steve Reincke said.

Hershel Aron said he voted today because he always votes. Aron, a retired police officer, said he voted for Trowbridge because he didn't like Anthony's record as a police officer.

"I came to do my civic duty," said Earleen Kraus, who also said she voted for Trowbridge.

By 9:40 a.m., 56 voters had cast a ballot at Mountain Shadows Community Center in western Las Vegas. Poll worker Teresa Cameron said turnout was steady but would probably pick up around lunchtime.

"With all the publicity from the candidates I got in the mail and got stuck in my porch, I reviewed them all and thought Stavros Anthony was the one I preferred," said voter Elizabeth Shatz. She said his police experience appealed to her.

HENDERSON

Voters in Henderson were taking advantage of the city's vote centers, which allow them to vote at any polling place instead of being assigned to a precinct.

As of 3 p.m., 3,704 people had voted in Henderson, in addition to the 9,400 who participated in early voting.

Voters are selecting a new mayor to succeed three-term Mayor James B. Gibson, who faced term limits, and a new council member in Ward 3.

Henderson mayoral candidates Andy Hafen and Steve Kirk, both councilmen, defeated three other candidates to advance to the general. In the Henderson City Council race, Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth founder Kathleen Boutin faces Cathy Rosenfield, the volunteer chair of the Henderson Parks and Recreation Board.

“The mayor of our city is really important to me,” said Carrie Paldi, who said she has voted in every election since she was 18.

“I’m a lifelong resident of Henderson and I want to make sure we have the right person to represent me.”

Paldi was one of about 70 people who voted at the Valley View Recreation Center before 10 a.m.

“I think it’s really important that we vote for the best person we can have for mayor,” said Sarah Callihan.

“It’s been a hard decision – two really qualified people are running – and these days it’s really important to vote for the best person.”

Turnout was light at the recreation center, but the voters were coming in a fairly steady stream of one or two at a time.

“It’s my privilege to vote,” said Dennis Gleason, who stopped by to cast his ballot on his way to work.

“I like the convenience (of the vote center). It’s considerably more convenient than they were in the past.”

In the first hour and a half after the polls opened this morning, 45 people had cast a ballots at the Henderson Multigenerational Center.

"I like the early voting, but I missed all those days," said resident Kathy Burke. "It's convenient. I have another appointment here and I live close by."

Many of those who voted at the center came for other events or activities and discovered that they could vote there without having to go to another location.

"I actually didn't know this was a polling place," said Anna Antolick. "I was coming here to work out and saw it. I was planning on voting anyway, I just didn't know I could do it here."

NORTH LAS VEGAS

Turnout was also light in North Las Vegas, which features the most races. Voters are being asked to choose a new mayor, a new Ward 3 City Council member and a municipal court judge.

By 3 p.m., 1,948 people had cast a ballot on election day, while 4,987 people participated in early voting in North Las Vegas.

Shortly before 1 p.m., 100 residents had voted at the Neighborhood Recreation Center, said poll worker Larry Wilson.

At Jim Bridger Middle School, poll worker Irene Childrens said there had been 30 voters by 11:30 a.m.

North Las Vegas City Council members Shari Buck and William Robinson are seeking the mayor's chair.

In the council race, North Las Vegas Planning Commission Chairman Angelo Carvalho faces Anita Wood, a stay-at-home mom. The race for municipal judge pits incumbent Sean Hoeffgen against attorney and North Las Vegas Judge Pro-Tem Marsha Kimble-Simms.

BOULDER CITY

Voter interest seemed high in Boulder City, where the election outcome could shift the direction of the city council.

Bill Smith and Cam Walker face off for a second at-large City Council seat to be decided this year. Duncan McCoy captured the first seat outright in the April primary election.

By 3 p.m., 786 people had voted in Boulder City, while more than 2,300 showed up for early voting.

About 75 voters from three precincts had come to Martha P. King Elementary School by 10:30.

“(The turnout) is typical for these types of elections,” said team leader Ed Helal. “In the big general elections you’ll have more of a turnout.”

Gingerwood Mobile Home Park resident Mary Tower said she was disgusted by the tone of the campaign, where there have been allegations of campaign signs being covered up or damaged.

“I just think it’s ugly and childlike,” she said, indicating that her choice was influenced by the way the campaigns were carried out.

Boulder City native Matt Ashe recent returned to the town after serving in the Navy. Ash was one of more than 100 people that came to vote at Garrett Middle School by 10:30.

“I am a big fan of democracy,” he said. “Everyone thinks it doesn’t matter who they vote for, but it does.

“I think everybody should vote,” he said.

Clare Tobler agreed that the election could make a difference in the city.

“I want to make sure I get the right councilman in so they can continue without a lot of problems,” he said.

“And the questions are important, too.”

Boulder City voters will have a say on six ballot questions. Five propose changes to the Boulder City Charter and one is an advisory question asking whether the city should allow geothermic and geothermal energy exploration and production in the Eldorado Valley.

Jason Larsen said he has not been really happy with the direction the city is going, but he hoped his vote could change that.

“It can change the dynamics of the way the city is right now,” he said.

Sun reporter Cara McCoy contributed to this story.

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