NATIONAL NEWS

Elections head in Nevada’s lone swing county resigns, underscoring election turnover in key state

Jan 2, 2024, 3:54 PM | Updated: 5:42 pm

RENO, Nev. (AP) — The rapid turnover among election officials in Nevada continued on Tuesday, when the top election official in the state’s lone swing county abruptly announced her resignation less than a month before early voting commences for the Feb. 6 presidential preference primary.

Washoe County Registrar of Voters Jamie Rodriguez said in her resignation letter that she wanted to pursue opportunities away from elections and spend more time with family ahead of a crucial 2024 election cycle.

Her last day will be March 15, though she will use her accrued time before then.

Eleven of Nevada’s 17 counties have had turnover in top county election positions since the 2020 election, most of which occurred between 2020 and the 2022 midterms, according to an Associated Press tally.

That already included Washoe County, whose past registrar of voters, Deanna Spikula, submitted her resignation in June 2022 in part because she received death threats and harassment.

The county had no additional comment on Rodriguez’s departure, other than forwarding along Rodriguez’s resignation letter, which was first reported by KRNV-TV in Reno.

Washoe County was the subject of an extensive elections audit that found rapid turnover and understaffing among the office hindered smooth election processes, communication with county residents and ballot development and preparation.

The county has hired additional elections staff since then – including Rodriguez’s replacement, current deputy registrar of voters Cari-Ann Burgess, who joined the department in September after previously working in elections in Minnesota and rural Douglas County, Nevada.

In an interview with The Associated Press last month before Rodriguez resigned, Burgess said preparation for the Feb. 6 primary, which will mostly remain symbolic for Republicans, was on schedule and that there had not been a lot of outside inquiries yet about the primary.

“We’re sitting really well,” she said last month. “The road to February sixth is going to be pretty smooth.”

The resignations across the Western swing state since 2020 were due to a confluence of factors: some received threats and harassment because of false claims of a stolen 2020 presidential election perpetrated by former president Donald Trump. Others resigned over a lack of support from the state. And many struggled with drastic changes in Nevada voting processes that fell on their small county offices to implement, including a universal mail ballot system, where ballots were sent to every registered voter in the mail.

It remains unclear if those factors resulted in Rodriguez’s resignation. She did not respond to a text sent to her work phone requesting comment on her departure.

The resignations across Nevada had slowed slightly since the 2022 midterms. Rodriguez is the second top county election official to resign in the past year.

Nevada Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar, the state’s top election official, has focused on better retaining election officials across the state amidst the turnover. He pushed new state laws last legislative session that make it a felony to harass or intimidate election officials while on the job, along with training courses and a manual that would streamline preparation for new officials thrust into leading elections roles.

“We have to be ready and prepared to deal with the team changing talent,” Aguilar testified in front of state lawmakers last March while pushing for the manual.

His office did not have an immediate response to Rodriguez’s departure on Tuesday.

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Stern is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Stern on X, formerly Twitter: @gabestern326

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Elections head in Nevada’s lone swing county resigns, underscoring election turnover in key state