The last day to register to vote in Washoe County is May 12, but with new technology in place, voters can sign up online, through their local Department of Motor Vehicles or by mail, according to County Registrar Daniel Burk.
Several changes have transformed the way the county registrar’s office has done businesses the past few years, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars during tight economic times, Burk said.
“We’ve done away with some things we used to do,” Burk said.
Technology, changing sample ballots and online registering are a few ways the elections office has found to save more than half a million dollars while cutting its staff nearly in half in since the last presidential election cycle, Burke said.
The county is working on a new online voter registration system, called NOVA, that will allow people to change their address, last name or other information online. This system could be launched as early as May, Burk said.
“In the future, this is the way almost every voter will register to vote, like almost everything they do online,” Burk said. “It’s so convenient.”
The “old” system remains in place. Voters can pick up forms to mail back to the registrar at many convenient locations throughout the county, including post offices, libraries, senior citizen centers, public agencies and union halls.
Field registrars also stock up malls and grocery stores with registration cards and sometimes go door to door to assist residents who want to register, Burke said.
If registering by mail, applicants must have it postmarked no later than the 31st day prior to election day. If registering in person at a DMV, the application must be received by the 31st day before an election day.
To take advantage of the “extended” close of registration period, between the 21st day and the 31st day before an election day, the registrant must appear in person at the Elections and Voter Registration Center, located at 1001 E. Ninth St., room A135, in Reno. To contact that office, call 328-3670.
The application can also be presented to the Registrar of Voters Office, the DMV or any State Welfare Agency, or mailed to the Registrar of Voters Office, P.O. Box 1130, Reno, NV 89520.
Burk said the online system has many security measures built into it.
“Just to make sure the system is secure, the records ensure they have to have a Nevada driver’s license or ID card. We ask them online and match that information. If it’s not right, we will not let them go forward,” Burk said.
Once a registration card is submitted to the elections office, the person’s DMV record is pulled through to the system. If the signatures don’t match, the voter is asked to show a valid identification when they show up to vote, Burke said.
One cost-saving measure that many Washoe county residents might notice this election cycle will be the difference in sample ballots. The registrar’s office will be using cheaper paper to print the sample ballots and do away with creating different versions for each district, Burk said.
“In 2008, we spent over $600,000 in sample ballots just for printing,” he said. “That didn’t include the mailing or anything.”
The newer versions will look 95 percent the same, he said, but instead of being specially created for each district and each separate set of candidates, the office will simply use inserts.
“This year, we’ll spent $50,000 to print the sample ballots,” Burk said. “It’s cheaper paper, they’ll be generic and we’ll insert a unique version. It will save us about half a million dollars. We have to keep looking for ways to save money.”
In 1997, when Burk first took his seat as registrar, he had a staff of 11.
“Now, there’s only five of us,” Burk said. “That should give you an idea. Because there’s so much technology now, we’ve been able to save a lot of money. Even with the savings, and with saving on gas and ink, we operate with $400,000 less than in 2008. We have to find more economical ways of doing things. It is very tough.”
Burk expects voters will still come out in large numbers for this year’s general election on Nov. 6. His estimate is 170,000.
One major change on the primary election ballot will be the fact that County Commissioner Kitty Jung — the only Democrat on the commission — will run for a seat on the Reno City Council. If she is elected, Gov. Brian Sandoval will need to fill her seat on the county commission until her term has expired. County commissioners are only allowed three elected terms and her time has run out.
To learn more about Washoe County Registrar of Voters Office, visit www.co.washoe.nv.us/voters. The site is full of information about who is running, where to vote, forms, statistics, contribution and expenditure reports and election results.