Political Parties Out To Register Nevada Voters

By  | 

No Nevada resident will be safe this year from the legions of volunteers armed with clipboards and looking to bolster the ranks of registered voters.

They were at last weekend's NASCAR races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. They're going to a farmers' market in Henderson. And they plan to contact every University of Nevada, Las Vegas student at least three times before November to try to "Rock the Vote."

The state might even see a visit from "Reggie the Registration Rig," the 18-wheeler truck outfitted with large-screen TVs and information on voting that was launched by Republicans this week.

Nevada has one of the worst voter registration rates in the country. And in a state where President Bush won by just 21,597 votes in 2000, political parties are looking to register voters as a way to get a leg up in this year's elections.

"It will make a huge difference," said Yier Shi, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, which hopes to register 57,000 new voters in Nevada before November.

"Four states were decided by 28,000 votes last election, and this year we're expecting a close race again," Shi said.

As of January, 339,503 Democrats were registered in Nevada, compared to 352,730 registered Republicans, according to the Secretary of State's office.

Nevada sees a net increase of about 6,000 new residents each month, and with an estimated one-third of them coming from California, the state Democratic party hopes it can win an edge by registering new residents, said spokesman Jon Summers.

Democrats have been updating voter files and knocking on doors for months in preparation for November, said chairwoman Adriana Martinez.

"You could actually say the Democratic Party is organized," she joked.

According to 2000 census figures, Nevada ranks just above Hawaii in the percentage of residents registered to vote.

Just 52.3 percent of eligible Nevada voters were registered during the census survey, compared with the national average of 63.9 percent.

When it comes to registered voters turning up at the polls, Hawaii again ranks last, with California tailing at 49th. Nevada pulls in at 48th, with just 46.5 percent of registered voters casting ballots in the 2000 election.

Nevada's political numbers also have drawn interest from the New Voters Project, a nonpartisan group that hopes to register 20,000 people aged 18 to 25 years old in Nevada this year.

The group is focusing on six states: Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon and Colorado. Since 1972, when 18-year-olds won the right to vote, the turnout of younger voters has gone down, said the group's national field director, Heather Smith.

The percentage of young Nevada voters is particularly low, with a 31.1 percent registration rate, compared with the 45.4 percent national average.

And those who cast ballots in 2000 amounted to 25.8 percent compared with the 32.3 percent national average.