2020 has brought many changes, including how some voters choose to cast their ballots in this general election. With registration deadlines quickly approaching, here’s what voters need to know.
How to register to vote
The first option for someone wanting to register online is to do so on the Nevada Secretary of State’s website, registertovotenv.gov.
Second, one can mail in a voter registration form to the Registrar of Voters‘ office in his or her county. That form for Washoe County is available online and can be printed out and mailed in. Paper registration forms are also available and can be picked up in person at your local Registrar of Voters’ or County Clerk’s office. Every county is a little different, though, so it’s helpful to check if it is possible to go to the office in person, or if everything needs to be done by mail and phone.
Fourth, same-day voter registration at a polling place is also an option, either during early voting or on Election Day.
October 6 is the cutoff to register for people who don’t have a Nevada ID. For example, someone who recently moved to Nevada from another state may not have a Nevada ID. After October 6, voters will only be able to register online or at a polling place. After October 6, voters need to register with a Nevada ID.
To receive a mail ballot, one needs to register online by October 15. Between October 16 and 29, voters can still register online, but they will need to vote in person. Voters may also show up in person at a polling place for early voting, which runs October 17 – 30, or on Election Day, November 3. On Election Day, voters may register to vote, update registration information and cast a ballot, if they have a Nevada ID.
Active vs. inactive
Active voters and inactive voters in Nevada are both registered and eligible to vote.
For this general election, only active voters in Nevada will be sent a sample ballot and official mail ballot. A voter is considered “inactive” if election mail is sent to the voter’s mailing address, the one that’s on file with their local Registrar of Voters, and it is sent back to that office as undeliverable. After that, the local Registrar of Voters office sends a follow-up postcard, which can be forwarded, asking the voter to update his or her address. If the office does not receive a response in 30 days, then the voter is marked as inactive.
The Secretary of State’s office recommends that voters check their status by calling their Registrar of Voters office or checking the SOS website. Searching one’s registration status will clearly show if a person is an inactive voter and the website will prompt the voter to contact the Registrar of Voters office.
Filling out a mail ballot
Two of the most critical aspects for voters to get right when completing a mail ballot are to only use black or blue pen and to completely fill in the oval for the desired candidate.
If a voter decides to not vote on a specific candidate or question, his or her ballot will still be counted for the candidates and questions that are marked. If a voter makes a mistake or marks the wrong candidate or question, he or she can clearly cross out the mistake and select another choice.
Before turning it in, the voter has to sign the signature box of the return envelope, or the mail ballot will not count. This signature will help election officials to verify the voter’s identity because it will be compared with the voter’s on-file signature.
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If there’s an issue with the voter’s mail ballot signature not matching the one on file with the registrar of voters office, the voter will be contacted to validate it.
For questions, voters can contact their Registrar of Voters office. In Washoe County, the Registrar of Voters office has some Spanish-speaking staff for those who need assistance in Spanish. Videos detailing how to complete and submit a mail ballot are available on the Washoe County Registrar of Voters website in English and Spanish.
How to submit a mail ballot
All mail ballot return envelopes are first-class mail with prepaid postage, for 1-3 day shipping, so a stamp is not needed. Each mail ballot must be postmarked by Election Day or dropped off before 7 p.m. Counties have up to seven days to receive postmarked ballots from Election Day.
If a voter requests a replacement ballot, the original ballot will be void. Since ballots have individual barcodes, an attempted “copy” would be identified and rejected. It’s important to make sure that only one ballot is included in each return envelope and that members of the same household do not mix up their return envelopes. Attempting to vote twice in the same election is a felony in Nevada.
Mail ballots are not counted by hand; they are run through a digital scanner. Voters can track their mail ballot through an online portal called Ballottrax.
A voter also has the option to drop off his or her mail ballot at a polling site or drop-off location. Under a new Nevada law, a voter can give his or her ballot to someone else to turn in. Once it’s signed and sealed, the person has up to three days to drop it off, and if they change, destroy or modify the ballot, it is considered a felony.
There are 19 different drop-off locations during early voting and on Election day. Drop-off locations and polling sites are listed on the Secretary of State’s website.
Voting in person
Choosing to vote in person rather than by mail means the voter must surrender his or her mail ballot at the polling place. It is not required to bring the individual mail ballot to the polling place, but it is encouraged.
If voters show up without their mail ballots, they must sign an affirmation indicating that they will not vote with their mail ballots after voting in person.
Polling places will be enforcing COVID-19 mitigation protocols. Voters can expect temperature checks and are required to wear a mask. Bringing a personal pen is recommended.
Everyone voting in person will use a touchscreen voting machine or tablet, which will be sanitized between each use. In order to vote, the person will be asked to sign in and their signature will be verified. Voters can cast their ballots in either English or Spanish.