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Ellen Sterling: Election 2010 In Nevada: Some Odd Practices; For Now, Nothing To Fear and, Perhaps, A 2012 Senate Race To Anticipate

By Huffington Post
November 5, 2010

2010-11-06-weeklycover.jpg This terrific Las Vegas Weekly cover by by James Shepherd says it all. Especially in Nevada, this was one scary election. Perhaps as someone told me, I am “too northeast liberal” to be comfortable during the local election season but, judging from all the national and international coverage our US Senate race got, I think lots of people in lots of places were uncomfortable.

On one side there was Harry Reid, the Democrat, the incumbent Senate Majority Leader, representing a state with the nation’s highest foreclosure and unemployment rates. On the other was Sharron Angle, the Tea Party girl who carried the GOP banner. She advocated such a range of horrors and erroneous ideas — Social Security is “welfare,” so end it; if you get pregnant as the result of a rape, it’s a “lemon situation,” so “make lemonade” by having the child; background checks for people who want to work with children are “an invasion of privacy:” insurance companies shouldn’t have to cover colon cancer screenings; it’s not a senator’s job to create jobs…….well, you get the idea.

The state’s largest newspaper rabidly supported Angle. I am of the opinion that their fierce promotion of her agenda and their somewhat specious voter opinion polls scared people in their Southern Nevada coverage region — the state’s most populous — so that, even those who were not going to vote because they didn’t like either candidate, decided to go and vote for Harry. After all, most voters want Social Security and jobs.

One must feel sorry for Harry’s son Rory, the Democratic candidate for governor. Sadly, with that name, he didn’t stand a chance. But his campaign was a bit odd, too. For example, many people received an email on his letterhead with “Feed the Hungry” as the subject. It requested donations of $10. This message from campaign manager Leo Murrieta talked about the campaign volunteers and said, “I try to keep them happy by making sure they stay fed and hydrated as they canvass in the Nevada heat. As you might imagine, that’s a lot of pizza and bottled water. That’s why I need your help. Can you chip in $10 for our volunteers?”

Um….what? Like many of you, I’ve worked on lots of campaigns and never felt entitled to be fed. If I was given food and drink, it was by the largesse of the candidate or the campaign manager. It was not a campaign expense. Why would it be?

When I replied to his email, suggesting that if they really wished to feed the hungry, the campaign should instead ask for donations to feed the hungry residents of Southern Nevada through Three Square, the regional food bank, the reply was….dead silence. I don’t think Rory Reid deserved to lose but I think this type of misstep indicates a campaign philosophy that speaks volumes about campaign priorities. And I’m not sure those were the candidate’s priorities.

Speaking of that, candidates on both sides are sent out reams of what is called in the political biz “campaign lit.” More than in any other election I’ve seen, this lit arrived daily and was usually filled with really nasty half- and twisted truths about the opponents. Apparently, the law makes is possible to the candidate to have complete deniability about the content of this lit so, pretty much, they way what they want to say. And, way too often, the lit rails against a candidate, saying you should not vote for the candidate, but doesn’t mention the name of the candidate you should vote for. This makes no sense and seems a colossal waste of money. Both parties were guilty of this.

Speaking of “guilty,” the party in which I am registered is very fond of robo-calls — you know, those recorded messages that, no matter how friendly the words, have a totally off-putting cold, impersonal tone.

Where I’d done politics before, one campaign rule was that, during election season, if a sizable Jewish population was in part of the community, a campaign would cease operation on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, regardless of the candidate’s religion. During spring primary season, the same was true for Passover and Easter. It’s just a matter of respect.

Well, not this time. I’m sure she wasn’t the only one, but a Democratic State Senate candidate named Tammy Peterson didn’t show even this basic respect and I got a robo-call on each holiday. Naturally, I voted for her opponent.

On the up side, the voting machines used here in Nevada are most interesting. They are Edge 2 Touchscreen machines. You walk in to vote, present your ID and, then you are given a key card. You go to a machine and insert the keycard. This ensures the proper version of the ballot — with the candidates running in your precinct — is the one you will be using to vote. Here in Clark County, 1, 175 precincts and 299 versions of the ballot because different areas may have different candidates for a range of positions. The beauty of this is that one year, about 30 miles east of my precinct, I was able to vote .on the ballot that I would have gotten had I been in my home area.

As you finish voting, you have the option to go back and change a vote and, then, there’s printout out of your votes appears in a window on the machine. You cannot access this but, before you act to finalize your vote, you can see a printed record of it.

These papers are printed out and locked in a vault that requires simultaneous insertion of a key card and a key to open. Twenty percent of the 4,000 machines (80 machines) are randomly chosen and then manually tabulated to ensure the machines are recording votes correctly

Larry Lomax, Clark County Registrar of Voters, who explained all this to me, assured me that, “There is nothing in the machine that ties an individual voter to the machine.”

It is a pretty amazing process. And, now that I understand it, it kind mind-boggling that Sharron Angle’s campaign tossed charges of voting irregularities at her ultimately victorious opponent.

But, after all is said and done, one must continue to have some faith in the electorate. In Nevada, at least, they rejected the hysterical scare tactics, saw through the lies and elected the right senator. And, they have reelected my Congresswoman, Shelley Berkley for the seventh time — neatly setting up Nevada’s 2012 US Senate race. Now that this election is past, there is really a lot to look forward to here in Nevada.

Illustration used with permission of Las Vegas Weekly.

From The Huffington Post