LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Early voting kicked off in Nevada on Saturday with long waits to cast a ballot in some polling locations.
As of 3 p.m. on October 17, the first day of early voting, Clark County said 17,800 ballots had been cast in person. By the time most polling locations closed at 7 p.m., more than 27,000 county residents had voted in person.
If the numbers seem low compared to previous elections -- they are, as a majority of early voters on day one had returned their mail-in ballots. As of Sunday at 10:30 a.m., 163,259 Nevadans had returned their mail-in ballots.
According to the Secretary of State’s Office, as of Friday at 12:30 p.m., about 67,000 mail-in ballots from Clark County were either dropped off or mailed back.
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak greeted voters and dropped his mail-in ballot at Boulevard Mall in Las Vegas on Saturday afternoon.
“You have options when it comes to voting this year. You can be like us and drop off your mailed ballot at any dropbox location in your county, mail your ballot back like many Nevadans have already done, or, starting today, you can vote early in person. No matter how you vote--do it early.” said Sisolak.
Sisolak also spoke on President Donald Trump's planned visit to Northern Nevada on Sunday, saying, "He is here because he thinks he has a chance in Nevada. We have to show him he doesn’t have a chance in Nevada. Everything is on the line this election. Four years of Donald Trump has devastated our state and our country. Nevadans cannot afford another four years of Donald Trump.”
#Election2020 : Steady stream of cars at Cmsr. @JustinJonesNV and @ACDCN mail ballot drop-off at the Desert Breeze Comm. Ctr on the west side of Las #Vegas today. A #ClarkCounty #election official was on hand to accept #ballots. #VOTE #DontLoseYourVoice #Vegas pic.twitter.com/FQGRobQscT— Clark County Nevada (@ClarkCountyNV) October 17, 2020
Lines and long waits were spotted at locations around the valley. Election officials reminded voters that early voting sites are open for 14 days, so there's plenty of time to vote after the initial rush.
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
This year's ballot is long, which could lead to long wait times at the polls.
With more than 70 contests, it's going to take some time to get through it. Dan Kulin with Clark County said your sample ballot is going to be useful.
It is the responsibility of the voter to do research on the candidates before casting their vote. If you don't know a lot about the candidates in a certain race, leave it blank. Joe Gloria, registrar of voters for the county, said when people vote uninformed, unqualified officials get into office.
'USE SAMPLE BALLOT TO YOUR ADVANTAGE'
Kulin suggested using your sample ballot to your advantage. Take the time before you get to the poll to fill it out beforehand. This will help you get through the process more quickly and will also reduce the chances of making a mistake.
"They can use that sample ballot so that they've marked up to make sure they're making the selections and choosing the candidates they want," Kulin said.
Other states around the country have seen long wait times at the polls during their first days of early voting. Some Georgia voters report having to wait in line for over five hours.
Every registered voter in Nevada got a ballot in the mail and was given the option of mailing it back in. This was one of the ways the state worked to make the process faster for everyone.
Even if you don't feel comfortable mailing it in, you can fill it out and drop it off at one of the early voting sites. If you do this, keep in mind that you do not have to stand in line with those waiting vote at the machine. Feel free to take it straight to the ballot drop box. Make sure that it is signed or you run the risk of your vote not being counted.
The county is also going to be offering a service that shows you estimated wait times at different polls, but don't depend on it.
"It's not really going to tell them whether there will be crowds at a particular location at a polling place," Kulin said. "We want people to use that as a convenience. If they're really worried about long lines or crowds at a polling place, we really encourage them to use the mail ballot."
SECURITY AT THE POLLS
Security is another big concern during this divisive election. Kulin said as with every election, safety is a top concern.
When asked how voters will be protected at polling sites , Kulin said the county works closely with local law enforcement, the secretary of state, and federal agencies to make sure people are able to cast their ballots safely.
The U.S. Attorney's office announced Friday that it has appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney Jamie Mickelson as district election officer for Nevada. Mickelson's job will be to oversee fraud and voting rights issues.
The attorney's office said in part, "The department of justice has an important role in deterring election fraud and discrimination at the polls, and combating these violations whenever and wherever they occur."
"Federal law protects against such crimes as intimidating or bribing voters, buying and selling votes, impersonating voters, altering vote tallies, stuffing ballot boxes, and marking ballots for voters against their wishes or without their input. It also contains special protections for the rights of voters, and provides that they can vote free from acts that intimidate or harass them."
If you have a concern, you can reach AUSA Mickelson at (702) 388-6336.