Demystifying the special election

Readers of “Right to Your Head” are no strangers to the fact that I have devoted lots of time to the upcoming race to fill the congressional seat recently vacated by Dean Heller. For those of you who aren’t aware, were abducted by aliens, or live under a rock, Heller was appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval to finish out John Ensign’s senate term after Ensign resigned, having finally figured out that his chances of reelection were dropping faster than his zipper.

Secretary of State Ross Miller interpreted our rather ambiguous special election laws to allow for a “ballot royale,” free-for-all election which was immediately contested by the GOP. The case ended up in the Nevada Supreme Court which ruled in favor of the Republicans, allowing the political parties to select their own nominees.

OK, is everyone all caught up? Good. Now, for the nitty gritty.

The election will be on Tuesday, Sept. 13. This election will be conducted in the same fashion as every other Nevada election. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day. You can contact your local registrar of voters office to determine your polling place. With this being a special election, you may not be voting at your normal polling place.

Is this a primary election? No. The political parties have already selected their nominees to appear on the ballot. The Republican candidate is former state Sen. Mark Amodei, and the Democratic candidate is state treasurer Kate Marshall.

Are independent/non-partisan voters eligible to vote? Yes. Since this is a general election pitting the different parties’ candidates against each other and not a primary, all Nevada voters who are qualified to vote in congressional district 2 are eligible.

Will there be early voting/absentee voting? Yes. Early voting will be conducted Aug. 27-Sept. 9. Absentee voting is also available, and the last day to request (in writing) an absentee ballot is Sept. 6.

What are the deadlines for registering to vote in the special election? The deadline to register by mail or online (Clark County only) has already passed. The last day to register to vote in person is Aug. 27 at 9 p.m. In person registration takes place at either the county clerk’s office or the registrar of voters office.

Are there any other local or national races on the ballot? No. This is a special election to fill the vacant Northern Nevada congressional seat only.

This is an election to fill only one office in a nontraditional election year, and in a nontraditional month. Turnout is expected to be rather low. Depressed turnout or not, it doesn’t mean this isn’t vitally important. We deserve to have proper representation in Washington, and it is incumbent on us to participate in the process. Yes, this is a traditionally Republican district, but that means nothing. If recent history has taught us anything, it’s that Republicans suck in special elections, regardless of a voter registration advantage. Amodei’s victory is not a lock, and the Marshall camp knows this. They have an impressive fundraising apparatus, the vaunted Reid voter turnout machine, and volunteers stacked up like cordwood ready to make phone calls and knock doors on Marshall’s behalf.

This election could come down to a few hundred votes. A few hundred people who didn’t want to burn up their lunch break or be 10 minutes late to pilates. It’s easy to make excuses for not voting, but considerably more difficult to live with the consequences. Just do it. Vote.

To learn more about the candidates, visit Kate Marshall’s website at or call her campaign office at (775) 358-1346. Mark Amodei’s website is and his campaign phone number is (775) 770-2215.