Nevada’s exodus of election officials took with them 104 years of experience, says report

By: - September 26, 2023 7:00 am

Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria retired in 2022 after 28 years with the county. (Photo by Jeniffer Solis)

Ten of Nevada’s 17 counties have lost their top election official since the last presidential election, a higher turnover rate than in almost all other western states, according to a new report out Tuesday.

Among the 11 western states analyzed by the cross-partisan political reform group Issue One, only Arizona — a fellow battleground state — saw a larger exodus of top election officials since November 2020. In Arizona, 80% of counties have a new person leading election operations at the county level. In Nevada, 59% of counties do.

Across all 11 western states, 40% of counties — and more than 50% of the population — have a new top official overseeing elections.

In Nevada, the 10 counties with new elections officials at the helm represent 96% of the total state population.

That stark figure is driven by the fact that both Clark and Washoe counties saw their registrars of voters depart. The two urban counties combined represent 90% of the statewide population.

Clark County Registrar of Votes Joe Gloria in December 2022 retired after 28 years with the county and nearly a decade as its top election official. He told the Las Vegas Review Journal that at the height of the harassment in 2020 police came by his house on an hourly basis to make sure his family was safe. (Gloria is now executive officer for operations at The Election Center, a national association for election officials.)

Washoe County Registrar of Voters Deanna Spikula in July 2022 stepped down from the position, which she’d held since 2017. She cited overall burnout and threats, including death threats, as motivating factors.

Such experiences weren’t confined to election officials like Gloria and Spikula in Democratic or swing counties.

In Lyon County, which remains deeply Republican, clerk-recorder Nikki Bryan retired after more than two decades of leading elections there. “I love this county and I want to see elections done right,” the lifelong Republican told the Christian Science Monitor before her departure in November 2022. “But I can’t fix the anger. I’ve tried.”

Aubrey Rowlatt, clerk-recorder for Carson City, left her post after just one term, citing the unsustainable workload, which for her and most other rural county officials includes more than just overseeing elections.

“You’re just working so many long hours, and then you’re being called idiots,” she told CSM.

Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar told Issue One that in addition to losing the top election officials, there have also been losses of “many more staff within election offices across the state.”

He continued, “This has led to a critical loss of institutional knowledge and staffing shortages ahead of the 2024 presidential election.”

Issue One is calling on Congress to provide more funding and protections to curb additional losses, recommendations Aguilar concurs with.

“Elections don’t work without people and resources, and consistent federal funding for election infrastructure would greatly strengthen our democracy,” he told the group.

Issue One found that Nevada’s exodus of election officials took with them 104 years of experience and dropped the median level of experience among top election officials in those counties “from about 8 years to about 1 year.”

But in Clark County — which has the largest population and most extensive operations — the new top election official is a familiar face in the department. Lorena Portillo, who Clark County Commissioners appointed as registrar of voters in the spring, had worked for the department for 25 years.

Washoe County Commissioners appointed Jamie Rodriguez as registrar of voters. Rodriguez had served as government liaison for the county from 2017 until August 2022 when she was named interim registrar of voters following Spikula’s departure. Rodriguez oversaw the 2022 elections.

Last year, the Brennan Center for Justice released a report finding that a fifth of all election officials were likely to quit before the 2024 election. Issue One’s new analysis suggests the true turnover has been higher than that prediction.

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April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus

April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, three children and one mutt.

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