Clark County is exploring the possibility of replacing traditional polling places with vote centers for future elections.
Commissioners today gave Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria the greenlight to pursue the move, which is expected to save money, streamline the result-tallying process and improve voter satisfaction by offering flexibility and reducing confusion.
The switch would also align the county with its lower municipalities, which as of this year all use vote centers on election days. Henderson has been using vote centers since 2007. Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Boulder City switched this year and experienced “no significant issues,” Gloria said.
Vote centers work similar to early voting sites, which are popular among voters in both the municipal and county elections. They carry all ballot types, which mean voters can visit any vote center instead of a specific polling place they have been assigned.
For the 2016 election, Clark County had 279 polling places staffed by approximately 600 employees. A switch to vote centers could halve both those numbers, Gloria said.
County staff has identified 160 sites as possible vote center locations. They include popular early voting spots such as the Galleria and Meadows malls. Additional sites would also be determined.
The switch could eliminate or reduce the need for mail ballot precincts. Currently, 4,500 people receive mail-in ballots and do not have an assigned polling place. More than half of them physically surrender those ballots and vote at a polling place during early voting.
Representatives from several civic engagement organizations spoke in favor of vote centers.
“It offers consistency,” said Alicia Contreras of Mi Familia Vota, a nonprofit focused on the Latino community. “People can go (to a vote center) closer to work, closer to school, wherever.”
Contreras says too often first-time voters don’t realize they are supposed to go to a specific polling place on election day and wind up at the wrong one. Then, they either cannot vote or have go through the extra step of submitting a provisional ballot. That negative experience can dissuade them from further participation.
County staff will begin outreach to community partners, parties and minority groups on the concept of vote centers beginning this summer. The goal is to implement vote centers beginning the 2018 elections.
Rural areas of Clark County would still have polling places.