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First early voters of Nevada primary share what spurred them to the polls

Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller
Jannelle Calderon
Jannelle Calderon
Tim Lenard
Tim Lenard
Election 2022
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Nevadans lined up outside community centers, malls and government offices on Saturday to be among the first to cast their ballots in a primary election that will narrow the field for governor, Senate and other major contests.

Saturday kicked off a two-week in-person early voting period, but many voters received and returned mail ballots well before the weekend. All active registered voters were sent mail ballots unless they proactively opted out, and they can submit those through the postal service or official drop boxes located at voting sites and elsewhere.

Voters also have the chance to cast a ballot in person on Election Day, which is June 14. For more on how to participate, check out our primary explainer here.

Nevada Independent reporters and photographers dropped by voting sites across the state on Saturday to talk with voters about what’s driving them to the polls.

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Katherine Lashmet on the first day of primary voting in Las Vegas on Saturday, May 28, 2022. (Jeff Scheid/Nevada Independent)

Katherine Lashmet, 84, was one of the first to cast her vote in the primary election at Desert Breeze Community Center in Las Vegas, which opened at 9 a.m. She had been waiting since 8:15 a.m., she said. 

Lashmet, a Democrat, said she usually prefers voting on a paper ballot and often mailed in her vote, but after former President Donald Trump insisted that the 2020 election had been rigged, she said she no longer trusts voting by mail. 

“I'm computer illiterate. I don't like to use machines,” she said. “I no longer get to vote by mail because I don't trust it and I always trusted it … So now I have to come and wait in line.”

For Lashmet, who grew up in poverty and has daughters, granddaughters and great granddaughters, abortion rights are a big concern.  

“People who live hand to mouth, we don't understand the Republicans. They don't care about us … Oh, but they love unborn babies,” she said. “But once they’re born, ‘You’re on your own, kid.’” 

— Jannelle Calderon

Early voter Paul Burkett stands outside of the Washoe County Government Center in Reno on Saturday, May, 28, 2022. (Trevor Bexon/The Nevada Independent)

Paul Burkett, 72, an attorney from South Reno, came out to the Washoe County Government Center to cast his ballot in person on Saturday because he has concerns about election integrity.

He said he doesn’t trust ballot harvesting — the practice of a person turning in a ballot on behalf of someone else. That practice was previously illegal for non-family members, but was made legal by the Legislature in 2020. 

A Republican, he initially planned to vote for Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo for governor, but changed his mind after becoming less comfortable with Lombardo’s positions and less convinced that under his leadership, the crime outlook improved.

“I believe some of his positions were not consistent with what his practices were,” Burkett said, although he didn’t want to disclose which candidate ultimately got his vote. 

The biggest issue on his mind as he cast a ballot? High inflation and too much spending. 

“There's inactivity in terms of not understanding the unintended consequences of flooding the marketplace with money,” he said.

— Tabitha Mueller

Scott Hoen at the Carson City Community Center for early voting on Saturday, May 28, 2022. (Tim Lenard/The Nevada Independent)

Scott Hoen wanted to be one of the first in line during early voting in Carson City. Unlike most others waiting in line, he was voting for himself — Hoen is running for Carson City clerk-recorder, a role that would put him in charge of elections if he wins.

But moreso than the top-of-the-ticket partisan races, he said it’s the local contests that made him the most excited.

“I'm more interested in board of supervisors, school district, and the nonpartisan offices like mine, because it's local,” he said. “Local controls everything … I can't control what the governor is going to do.”

A Republican, Hoen isn’t in favor of the proposed ballot initiative to open up primaries to participants from any party and move to ranked-choice voting. The proposal — which would also implement a ranked-choice system where voters rank candidates in order of preference — is expected to end up on the statewide ballot in November, as sponsors say they have gathered more than the required number of signatures needed to qualify the measure by a June deadline. 

But it has faced opposition from progressive groups and Democratic elected officials including Gov. Steve Sisolak and Sens. Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto, who say it would make elections more confusing and potentially lead to more discarded votes.

Hoen thinks it could end up yielding just Democratic candidates in the general election.

“I’d rather that the party make the decision on who they want to go to the general, and keep it the way it is,” he said.

— Tim Lenard

Emery and Lynn Nihipali on the first day of early voting in Las Vegas on Saturday, May 28, 2022. (Jeff Scheid/Nevada Independent)

Las Vegas couple Emery and Lynn Nihipali voted at the East Las Vegas Library to just “get it done” and grab some lunch after.  

Emery said he prefers voting in person, rather than through mail, because of the experience. 

His wife, Lynn, said she leans Democratic and strongly opposes Trump, calling him a “knucklehead.” 

“You can't say that you're a Christian and vote for [Trump],” she said. “Proverbs say there's seven things God hates, and three of them have to do with lying. That pretty much tells you.”

She also pointed to the Jan. 6 insurrection, where an officer was hit with a fire extinguisher by a rioter. Several of her family members are involved with law enforcement, so she calls herself a supporter of “blue lives” as many of Trump’s supporters describe themselves, but would prefer people not putting her in a box — such as on issues including gun rights. 

“There's things as a Christian that I don't particularly like, but these gun laws, they gotta change,” she said. “You know you need to change the gun laws when the cops are afraid to go in to get the shooter.”

— Jannelle Calderon

Pat Jordan stands inside of the Northwest Reno Library early vote location on Saturday, May, 28, 2022. (Trevor Bexon/The Nevada Independent)

Pat Jordan, 79, had already mailed in her ballot by the time the early voting period rolled around. 

“The main thing is, it's so convenient,” said Jordan, an interior decorator who came to the Northwest Reno Library to check out some books. “I like the convenience of sitting down in my own home and pondering things … without feeling like I'm holding somebody up.”

She’s pleased that Nevada provides a wide range of options for casting a vote, including mail ballots and early or Election Day in-person voting. A Democrat, she looked to endorsements as a way to make decisions in contests such as the lieutenant governor primary, where Henderson Mayor Debra March and incumbent Lisa Cano Burkhead are locked in a competitive race.

“Since I knew very little about either one of them, I have an inclination then to kind of rely on who supports them …  because normally those are people that you're more familiar with,” Jordan said. “And as long as they're not being endorsed by Mr. T., well, then I think you can't go wrong.”

Her vote this cycle carries on a tradition she’s held to since she was 18.

“We're not going to get it right every time,” she said. “But it's important to exercise that vote so that the people in power know that it's important to the rank and file, and it maintains a value system that's important for us all to have.”

— Tabitha Mueller 

John Orrell on the first day of early voting at the Carson City Community Center on Saturday, May 28, 2022. (Tim Lenard/The Nevada Independent)

Longtime Carson City resident John Orrell, 80, said the last time he went to vote, he ended up waiting in line for more than three hours. This time, he pre-filled his mail ballot at home and got things out of the way on the first day of early voting. 

“Very fast. Very efficient,” he said about his experience outside the Carson City Community Center.

Orrell was most excited to vote in the governor’s race — what he said was the biggest contest on the ballot, and the seat that most called for change. He opted for Lombardo, saying the sheriff seemed more conservative than the other candidates.

“I pay attention to politics. Didn't used to years and years ago,” said Orrell, whose background is in sales and engineering. “But with what's going on in our world situation, it should be something that people should strive to get involved [in], try to make the best decision they can.”

— Tim Lenard

Jesse Cordero on the first day of early voting in Las Vegas on Saturday, May 28, 2022. (Jeff Scheid/Nevada Independent)

Jesse Cordero, 75, says he “votes for the best person, not for the party” and considers himself an independent, but voted in the Democratic primary on Saturday, including to re-elect Gov. Steve Sisolak. 

He said some of his top concerns are gun control and the cost of higher education. 

Cordero said that especially with the rising cost of higher education, it’s harder for minorities to attain a degree. And the value of a degree has decreased, he said, students are almost forced to earn a master’s or PhD to remain competitive. 

He’s also concerned about disparities among minority groups. 

“There's a lot of hate … I don't want to take your job away from you,” he said. “All I want to do is live the American Dream. But the way things are going right now, it’s dead.” 

— Jannelle Calderon

Susan Hoog-Fry stands outside of the Raley's on Caughlin Parkway after voting early in Reno on Saturday, May, 28, 2022. (Trevor Bexon/The Nevada Independent)

Reno resident Susan Hoog-Fry, 63, couldn’t attend a music festival she usually goes to over Memorial Day weekend. So, she thought she’d treat herself to in-person voting instead.

Current events are shaping her outlook on the election, including a leaked draft opinion indicating the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade. She called the prospect of losing the right to legal abortion “frightening,” especially after it has been established for so many decades.

“I didn't know people who died from it or anything, but I've heard stories about it,” Hoog-Fry said. “And just because you're not ready to have a baby now doesn't mean your body should be mutilated, and then you can't have a baby in the future.” 

In light of recent mass shootings, she’s looking for “somebody that at least will try to do something to help curb the slaughtering that's happening.” And as a Democrat, “I'm always looking for somebody to replace Amodei” in Nevada’s Republican-leaning 2nd Congressional District.

— Tabitha Mueller

Kathleen Flanagan on the first day of early voting at the Carson City Community Center on Saturday, May 28, 2022. (Tim Lenard/The Nevada Independent)

Carson City resident Kathleen Flanagan isn’t worried about new developments in the two-plus weeks before Election Day — she’s been researching and feels confident in who she chose on Saturday. In the governor’s race, that was Reno attorney Joey Gilbert.

“He's very energetic. He really is a wonderful conservative,” said the retired graphic designer. “I just felt that his qualifications are very good.”

For the Republican primary for Senate, she said she very much favored Sam Brown.

“It's just how they feel about the state,” she said. “I love this state. And I just wanted to keep it the way it is. … As Nevadans, we have certain beliefs. And there's been a lot of controversy and other beliefs coming in. And I just want to keep it … conservative.”

— Tim Lenard

Stephanie Parker at early voting at the Carson City Community Center on Saturday, May 28, 2022. (Tim Lenard/The Nevada Independent)

The most important thing Stephanie Parker, 57, is looking for in candidates is how they feel about the working middle class.

“They haven't kept up with the times,” she said after casting her ballot in Carson City. “Any more, people cannot afford to live in the towns that they work in.”

In the Democratic primary, she said she is standing behind Catherine Cortez Masto on the basis of resources that come into the state, but also sees the importance of the state constitutional offices, which have had greater decision-making roles during the COVID emergency.

“I also look at things that make a difference in our everyday laws,” she said. “So our governor, the state constitutional officers, attorney general, secretary of state — I think they all play an important key, as we've seen in the pandemic.”

— Tim Lenard

Jack Froelich on the first day of early voting at the Carson City Community Center on Saturday, May 28, 2022. (Tim Lenard/The Nevada Independent)

For Jack Froelich, a 24-year-old engineer from Carson City, the biggest motivation behind his votes had to do with personal freedoms during the pandemic. 

“I think that there's been a lot of, in my opinion, overstepping the bounds of what the government should be doing in our personal lives,” he said.

He was most excited to cast a ballot in the gubernatorial race, saying he wanted a change from Gov. Steve Sisolak. He thinks former Sen. Dean Heller best aligns with his views and is a strong enough candidate to win the whole race.

“I think that Dean Heller promotes a lot of the same values that my family does — a lot of the same kind of family values, second amendment, and free speech and those kinds of things,” he said. 

— Tim Lenard

Sam Palomares outside of the Downtown Reno Library on Saturday, May, 28, 2022. (Trevor Bexon/The Nevada Independent)

Samantha Palomares, 26, sat in the observation section of the Reno Downtown Library's polling center as part of the nonpartisan Election Protection organization. 

"I'm here making sure that everybody's getting the opportunity to vote," Palomares said.

Voting is vital, Palomares said, adding that she hears people saying that their votes do not matter and it frustrates her. 

"How are people supposed to know that you're upset about an election if you're not out there speaking your voice?" she said. "I believe it's important that people come here speak their piece at the voting poll."

Palomares said that not everyone knows the laws around voting and she is volunteering with Election Protection to ensure that every voter gets to cast a ballot and no discrimination takes place. She added that the organization has lawyers on the line ready to answer any questions that come up.

Though in-person voter turnout in Washoe County was relatively slow Saturday, Palomares said she expects the locations to get busier as the end of early voting approaches. 

"It is the holiday weekend. So of course people are trying to spend time with family," she said. "But I have no doubt that there's going to be many more voters coming in."
 — Tabitha Mueller

Assistant Editor Michelle Rindels contributed to this report.

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