The Nevada Globe received numerous complaints from Washoe County voters regarding long lines and changed locations on primary election day, specifically at a small voting location in Incline Village in unincorporated Washoe County. I called the Washoe County Registrar of Voters in search of some answers. I was told by two people in the office, including a supervisor, that their policy is to instruct reporters to call 311, a general non-emergency number, for any election-related questions.
My first response was, “You must be joking. I don’t have a cat stuck in a tree.” The supervisor repeated that referring calls from the press to 311 was their policy. I replied that their policy was outrageous and that I would like to speak to the Registrar or person in charge of this policy.
I was quickly reminded that the Washoe County Registrar, Deanna Spikula, has been on an extended, paid leave of absence with no announced date of return. Spikula’s last public appearance as registrar was at a March 8 Board of Commissioners meeting and according to numerous reports, there is no timeframe as to how long a county employee needs to be absent before an interim or permanent replacement is sought.
As reported by KUNR:
Washoe County’s top election official is currently on leave with no announced date of return.
County public information officer Bethany Drysdale confirmed in an email to KUNR that Registrar of Voters Deanna Spikula is “taking unexpected leave” and “she is paid while taking leave.” No reason was given. Spikula was appointed in 2017.
Washoe County Deputy Registrar Heather Carmen and Government Affairs Manager Jamie Rodriguez will be handling Spikula’s duties.
In a statement to The Reno Gazette Journal, Jamie Rodriguez claimed that Spikula and the office had received threats and has been targeted:
To be sure, this is not an easy time in the registrar’s office,” said Jamie Rodriguez, Washoe County government affairs manager, in an email to the RGJ.
“We have received threats, we have been the target of anger and mistrust. It can be very difficult to explain to the public the process and steps that must occur or the limits of what can be done based on state and federal laws. We and our staff have to work very long and very stressful days, which can be hard to balance.”
Back in January, prior to her never-ending and paid leave of absence, Spikula was interviewed by Joy Reid on MSNBC. In that interview, Spikula claimed that her office was “trying to combat ignorance with information.”
SPIKULA: And once that we explain things to them, how we really run elections, how our equipment really functions, most of them will say, oh, I didn’t know.
But there are some out there that just they don’t want to hear the truth. They don’t want to hear anything that’s different from what their internal dialogue is telling them.
REID: Yes. Yes.
SPIKULA: So there’s only so much we can do.
But I think the majority of people are still open-minded. And we’re trying to combat ignorance with information.
Combating ignorance with information is laudable, especially in a midterm election year that began with less-than-expected primary turnout marked by long lines and voter confusion.
In a midterm election year, voters shouldn’t face long lines but should expect to have a County Registrar…one who is working and not on paid leave for an undetermined amount of time for undisclosed reasons.
As a member of the press, I expect a government agency that is responsible for elections to answer a few questions.
Based on my experience today, it is understandable why our elections in Nevada are rightfully questioned, doubted and scrutinized. If a reporter has to wait in a 311 queue alongside callers noise complaints and abandoned vehicles, it is little wonder that our elections take a back seat to bureaucratic nonsense and outright apathy. Unless this policy changes and Washoe County employs an actively working county registrar, we can expect the November midterms to be treated as a joke by some, but will be a disservice to all.
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