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Nevada’s Early Voting Kicks Off with COVID-19 Precautions and Lack of Trust in Mailing Votes In

Reporter Alina Croft covers the first day of early voting in Nevada at Lawlor Events Center located on the University of Nevada, Reno, campus, and finds some voters felt their ballot would be more secure there than sent through the mail.

Theresa Navarro, a poll worker, manned the ballot drop-off box for voters who had already filled out their mail-in ballots but wanted to drop it off securely.

In-Person or By Mail?

From COVID-19 protocols, to state-wide mail-in ballots, and in-person early voting which began today with double masked poll workers, this year’s voting in Nevada is looking a little different than in the past.

On the University of Nevada, Reno, campus, on the first day of early voting, voters ranged from 18-years-old to people in their 60s. Voters at this location were able to drop off their already filled out mail-in ballots, or vote traditionally in a booth, several weeks before Election Day on November 3rd.

“[I] frankly have heard about the irregularities with the ballots and so I wanted to make sure that my vote was cast without any issues,” Christi Matteoni, a woman passionate about exercising her right to vote, said about her decision to vote in a booth during the early voting period.

“Frankly, I just don’t think the mail system is that reliable,” Matteoni’s partner, Wayne Haney said. “Regardless of if someone does something wrong, [the postal services] just loses things. It happens to me on a regular basis on normal mail, so I don’t know why I would think my ballot would be any different,” he said.

Devika Bararia, a university student, was there even though she had already voted by mail. “I’m here with the Young Democrats Club on campus, we did a march to the polls with a few of the candidates, but I’ve already filled in my mail-in ballot and sent that out,” she said. “I already had it in the mail and it’s really, really easy to vote by mail, especially this year.”

A couple who voted together Christi Matteoni and Wayne Haney wanted to take advantage of nice weather and the university’s polling location to vote on the first day of early voting.

Why Lawlor?

Of 12 early voting locations in Washoe County, Matteroni and Haney picked to vote at Lawlor Events Center for a unique reason.

“We wanted to buy an Awful Awful hamburger [an iconic burger served in the university area] , so we thought this was the place! We weren’t really sure where they were doing early voting and we just looked it up and were like ‘my gosh, that’ll be a good middle place for us to go to lunch and easy voting,’” said Matteoni.

“Plus, it’s a nice day and we wanted to get out too. It just feels kind of good to cast your ballot. I like to actually touch a machine and see my answers,” Haney said.

“[The Young Democrats Club] wanted to encourage young people to vote and even if they can’t come today, they see it happen on the first day and realize they can come,” Bararia said of spending some of her day at Lawlor’s early voting location. “We’re trying to advertise it as much as possible to young people on campus,” she said.

Devika Bararia is trying to get more UNR students to vote.

First Time Voters and Decades Long Voters

Haney and Matteoni said they have voted in every election they were eligible for since the mid-1970s, and view the current 2020 election as particularly important.

“If your voice isn’t heard now, when will your voice be heard? And to assume it’s somehow going to get out there without your input, I think doesn’t make sense,” said Haney. “This is a big one, maybe the most important I’ve voted in. The economic impacts of Covid have changed the dynamic to a point where who makes these decisions right now may affect the future for the next 30 years. This is bigger than probably any [election] in my lifetime, and I’m 60.”

Haney, who graduated high school in the 70s, believes the attitude towards voting was quite different back then.

“When [I] went to school, we had more of a focus towards that idea in civics class, constitutional education and things like that, so it kind of got ingrained in us that this was something everyone should do. And it wasn’t really an option. You didn’t not vote,” said Haney.

Two student workers Brielle White (right) and Belle Lodovico (left) helped with the process.

A Duty to Society

Bararia agreed in some aspects about what Haney had to say in regards to voting.

“You have to go out and vote, it’s more important than ever. You have to vote for people who can’t vote, you have to vote for all the people that marched and fought so that we have the right to vote. I think we owe it to them,” she said.

“The first election I voted for was John F. Kennedy,” Theresa Navarro, a poll worker, stationed at Lawlor said. “I’ve voted ever since, never missed an election, not even a primary. Right now for me, I’m pushing for people to understand that they need to change things that are going on in Congress right now, especially the Senate. So I push people to look at the people in those positions first before they vote. This is important because it’s presidential, but they also need to look at all the local ones.”

“I think that it’s our civic duty,” Janet Ratto, a fifth grade teacher said of her own reason. “I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t go vote. The first election I voted in was George Bush Sr.’s first term and I’ve voted in all of them since. I think it’s so important that we vote right now, our country depends on it. They say, ‘vote like your life depends on it,’ I totally agree with that.”

Early voting is from today, Oct. 17 to Oct. 30 beginning every morning at 9 a.m and ending at 7 p.m at all Washoe County locations.

Campus Escort and Poll Workers Helping Out

Brielle White, a student worker for Campus Escort, the UNR program which transports students safely to and from campus locations and on and off campus as well, was helping direct voters and making sure they got their temperature checked.

“[I] mostly just help direct people into which line to go in,” she said. “We have two, one for in-person voting and then we have another one if you have a ballot drop-off or if you don’t have a mask on so we can get you in quicker. But, for everyone [voting] you have to have your temperature checked before you can go inside.”

Navarro explained her job as a poll worker and what it meant to be in charge of the drop-off ballot box.

“What I’m doing here is I scan [the ballot], it brings it up on my computer that they have now voted, then I stamp it and then put it in the ballot box. Then I give the person an ‘I Voted’ sticker,” she said.

Navarro has been a poll watcher for multiple elections, but for this election she decided to take on a different duty.

“I thought, this election is such an important election so I went ahead and registered to work in the polls. I’ll be working all through the 30th of this month. I will also be working on counting the ballots afterwards,” she said.

Reporting by Alina Croft for the Reynolds Sandbox



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