Nonpartisan registration grows by default
More Douglas County voters registered nonpartisan in January than Democrats and Republicans combined.
According to figures from the Douglas County Clerk-Treasurer’s Office, 139 nonpartisans joined the voter rolls, while 66 Republicans and 58 Democrats were listed.
That might not so much be a sign that voters are less polarized as much as it is the way the Department of Motor Vehicles registers new voters.
Clerk-Treasurer Kathy Lewis said Wednesday the office received 998 voter applications from the DMV during January, the first month of automatic voter registration. That’s five times the office typically receives in a month
She said that unless someone isn’t a citizen, any one who conducts a transaction at the DMV is automatically registered to vote.
“At the end of the transaction, the print an opt-out form,” she said. “If you don’t want to be registered or you want to select a party, you have to select it on this farm and drop it in the box on the way out. Most of the registrations we get are from people who are not dropping that paper in the box.”
When the Clerk’s Office receives a registration without any indication of party, workers will look up the voter and keep the former party affiliation if there is one. Otherwise, new voters are registered nonpartisan.
The county’s substantial Republican majority combined with Nevada’s closed primary system means local partisan races are settled during the Republican primary. Even if only two Republicans are seeking the same seat, Nevada election law says whomever wins that contest will go to the general election as the lone candidate.
Filing for nonjudicial office is March 2-13. Douglas County commissioner is a partisan race with announced candidates in all three open seats and races for two of those. All the announced candidates are Republicans, so far.
There are also three school board races up for election this year. School Board Trustee Karen Chessell is term-limited out. There are also a slew of town and district boards up for election. All these races are nonpartisan.
Lewis said a new law allows people to register or alter their registration at the polls this year.
“The exciting thing in Douglas is that you can come to the polls and change your voter registration,” she said. “Which means you can come and if you’re not registered Republican, and you’d like to vote in the commissioner race you can make the change then.”
That also means that those residents registered by the DMV can make changes to their file.
Voters who want to check their registration, may do so at the Nevada Secretary of State’s web site.
The Democratic caucuses this week could also result in a bump in registration for those voters. Caucus goers may register to vote or alter their registration to participate in the caucus.
As of the beginning of February, Douglas County had 40,587 registered voters, the most in its history.
Of those, 21,449 were Republicans, 9,179 were Democrats and 7,289 were nonpartisan. Minor party voters accounted for the rest. Those figures reflect both active and inactive voters, since either can vote at the polls.
Because no presidential candidate appears on the Nevada primary ballot, turnout for those elections tends to be lower in Douglas County.