21-year-old local resident Matt Gallagher registered to vote Tuesday at the Washoe County Registrar of Voters office. Gallagher, a college student, also requested an absentee ballot because he will be studying in Ireland at election time.

Nevadans still clinging to their faith in the political system will be given more time this year to register to vote.

The 2003 Nevada Legislature ordered county clerks in the small counties and the registrars of voters in Washoe and Clark counties to extend the deadline for voter registration an additional 10 days, until Aug. 17—but only if voters register at the central county voter registration offices. The Washoe County registrar of voters is in the county complex at 1001 E. Ninth St., room A135.

For those who register through a deputy registrar or at the Department of Motor Vehicles, the deadline remains Aug. 7.

No one is quite sure why this extension was enacted or what the lawmakers’ motivation was, and it took some local voter registration officials by surprise. Some say it was somehow involved with changes in state election law that were necessary in order for Nevada to qualify for funding under the “Help America Vote Act,” legislation approved by Congress in reaction to voting irregularities uncovered during the 2000 Florida recount. Nevada stood to gain $19 million under the act’s provisions.

At any rate, while the Nevada lawmakers were making the change, they once again got involved in micromanaging voter registration office hours.

For instance, the lawmakers instructed county officials to keep the voter registration offices open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. and then 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. during the last five days of the extended registration period. These interrupted office hours have been a thorn in the side of county officials before.

“The [county] clerks tried unsuccessfully to get that changed so that it’s just 11 hours straight through … but to no avail,” says Washoe voter registrar Dan Burk. “So we’re back to the same old two hours between 5 and 7 p.m. sitting here waiting to open up again for the last two hours, which, frankly, doesn’t serve anyone.”

Why the legislators prohibited the counties from offering two more hours for people to register is not known.

The reason for the different registration deadlines for the central voter registration offices from other types of registration is known, however.

Election officials were concerned about the burden the longer registration period would put on the county clerks and voter registrars, since registration would end just four days before early voting began (Aug. 21). The legislators responded to that concern by requiring that late registrations could be filed only at the central offices around the state. As a result, there will be less worry over DMV registration forms arriving in time for the primary and especially over forms coming in from volunteer deputy registrars.

Along related lines, the registrar of voters has added a mechanism to check the status of citizens’ voter registrations; simply go to the registrar’s Web site, www.co.washoe.nv.us/voters, and click the link near the top of the page.

Dennis Myers was the news editor of the Reno News & Review. He was a journalist for more than four decades. In 1987-88 he was chief deputy secretary of state of Nevada. He was coauthor of Uniquely...