After an audit found that Washoe County election processes were “error prone and confusing,” County Manager Eric Brown and Registrar of Voters Jamie Rodriguez gave a presentation to the commissioners and explained the need for a massive overhaul of the county’s election system. According to the RGJ, Brown remembers telling them, “We need to revamp it, take it down to the studs and start over.”
On the heels of a legislatively-approved, $30 million investment in the state’s voter registration system, the County anticipates improved speed and accuracy in maintaining voter rolls and a reduction in manual administrative processes.
According to the RGJ:
The new system is called VREMS, for Voter Registration & Election Management Solution.
The Nevada Secretary of State website describes the system’s goal as “putting in place a centralized statewide voter registration database and supporting the connection of election management systems located in counties throughout the state to that database for secure and accurate elections.”
This statewide election platform promises to improve speed and accuracy in maintaining voter rolls and to reduce manual administrative processes. Voter registration changes made at the Department of Motor Vehicles are expected to now go directly to the state.
“Maintenance of the voter rolls will still fall to the county,” Rodriguez said. “The top-down VREMS change will not remove or change that responsibility, the difference is that the platform will be paid for and supported by the state.”
An 80-page audit conducted by The Elections Group found that Washoe County’s election process was error prone and confusing and made recommendations to hire additional people, increase training and communications, and provide resources employee’s need to support and increase productivity.
Although the $100,000 audit was initially delayed due to a tied vote by the County Commissioners, Governor Joe Lombardo appointed Clara Andriola who sided with Chair Alexis Hill and Mariluz Garcia to approve the audit.
Key findings in the audit included:
- From 2010-2020, Washoe County had an increase of 50 percent in registered voters without an increase in staff positions to match the increased workload.
- The Registrar of Voters (ROV) has had to adapt to rapidly changing laws and regulations. In 2021, Nevada lawmakers required the ROV to mail a ballot to all registered voters and made other significant reforms demanding increased technical and professional support.
- Positions in the ROV office are siloed, there is inadequate cross training, and if an employee is absent, no other employee can complete tasks in their absence.
- Documentation explaining procedures was non-existent.
- 100% turnover since the 2020 election and staffing hasn’t kept up with population growth.
- Outdated technical systems.
- Inefficient processes.
- Poor communication with the public.
As reported by The Globe, Washoe County did have many issues during the 2022 midterm elections including an eight hour power outage in the ballot tabulation area, few polling locations on election day in the rural counties and areas resulting in long lines, and a County Registrar who, after a lengthy absence, resigned without a permanent replacement seated for the midterm election.
To note, although the former registrar claimed she was threatened and feared for her safety, the Secretary of State’s office found no evidence to support her claims. Her interim and permanent replacement, Rodriguez, was approved in December 2022 in a 4-1 vote by the County Commission and formerly worked in Government Affairs for the county and for late-Senator Harry Reid.
Although the VREMS system will not be fully functional for the February 2024 presidential primary, the County anticipates that the new system will be initially operational by June 2024 and fully operational by 2025. To address staffing shortages, the County has started the recruitment and hiring of ten new positions in the Registrar’s office.
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