Low turnout expensive

We don’t know if the turnout for the primary election hit a record low, but we can say for certain that it’s pretty close.

At 32.54 percent that’s the lowest we’ve recorded in the 21st Century, and quite a bit lower than in the 1990s.

Last week, Clerk-Treasurer Amy Burgans pointed out that it wasn’t just Douglas County.

Statewide, fewer than a fifth of Nevada’s active registered voters cast a ballot, down from just over a quarter in the 2022 primary.

Even the rural counties, where active voters are counted in the hundreds instead of thousands, the turnout was down as much as 25 percent compared to the 2024 results.

Like any event requiring public participation, voting in an election very much depends on who and what’s on the ballot.

Even with three competitive commissioner races, a race for U.S. Senate and one for Congress, fewer than 45 percent of Republicans cast a ballot. Democrats almost managed 41 percent in their U.S. Senate race while nonpartisan and minor party voters cast 8.31 percent of the ballots in Douglas County.

The county spent roughly $5 each to mail a ballot to 41,292 active voters, with 2,799 returned as undeliverable, Burgans told county commissioners, that more than doubled the cost per ballot.

That’s a lot of money to see two-thirds of those ballots go unused. She said she believes two weeks of early in-person voting is probably more than is required, as is moving the ballot box all over the county. Both those things require a full staff of election workers to operate the polls and tend to the boxes, and while workers aren’t paid much, they are being paid.

There aren’t many things Burgans can do as Douglas’ chief election official within the confines of state law, but there’s no reason she can’t share her experience with legislators in an effort to perhaps reduce the expense.

One key legislative action would be to convert mailed ballots from opt out to opt in. We agree that people shouldn’t have to share their medical conditions or travel plans with the county so they can vote. But there isn’t any reason to keep mailing people ballots that end up being left on a table somewhere, unused. We would encourage voters to share their feelings by opting out of receiving mailed ballots by the Sept. 6 deadline.

Voting by mail is clearly a popular option. However, residents have as much right not to vote as they have to cast a ballot.

It would be better if they didn’t make the rest of us pay for their lack of interest.


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