Vote Nevada Update 12/11/2021

Vote Nevada Supporters,

This past week the Economic Forum met to review the state’s economic health.  The commissioners heard a variety of presentations ranging from gaming tax revenue to employment trends.  You can review the presentations and data as well as click on the camera icon to view the meeting recording here: https://vote-nevada.news/Economic-Forum

You can read a summary of the meeting here: https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/InterimCommittee/REL/Interim2021/Committee/1906/Meetings

The Nevada Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has scheduled a follow-up meeting for stakeholders and the public to provide additional information on recommendations in the Impact of Remote Learning on Education Equity report, which you can read here: https://www.usccr.gov/files/2021-11/nv-sac-remote-learning-and-equity-in-education-report.pdf

The meeting is on January 28, 2022, via WebEx, from 3 to 5 pm.  You can RSVP to attend the meeting here: https://vote-nevada.news/NV-Advisory-Committee-Meeting

 

Our next Vote Nevada meeting is January 22, 2022, via Zoom, 9-10:30 am.  The topic is Advocacy During the Interim and Election Cycle.  We will review how to engage with the interim legislative committees as well as create opportunities to speak to candidates for office about important issues.  You can RSVP here: https://vote-nevada.news/Advocacy

 

A lawsuit has been filed against the open primary ballot question.  You can read the lawsuit and case summary here https://thenevadaindependent.com/article/lawsuit-seeks-to-block-proposed-open-primary-ranked-choice-ballot-initiative

Here’s a summary and critique of the lawsuit.  The lawsuit argues three main points:

  1. The petition violates the single-subject rule.  The plaintiffs argue that allowing up to five candidates to advance from the primary to the general election for congressional, constitutional, and legislative races and then to use ranked-choice voting to determine which candidates win in those elections are two separate processes that have no connection and so cannot be put together in one ballot question.  

One counterargument is that the ballot question addresses the singular election process, which includes various parts, such as candidate filing, campaign practices, a primary election, and a general election.  Because the various parts are connected, changing one can necessitate changing another to ensure the integrity of the whole.  Each part of the singular election process is covered under one title of Nevada Revised Statute, Title 24, and is under the jurisdiction of one office of state government, the Secretary of State’s Office.  

  1. The petition creates an unfunded mandate.  The plaintiffs argue that the proposed changes will necessitate new voting machines and expensive software to manage ranked-choice voting.  There are no references to affirming testimony from Deputy Secretary of State for Elections Mark Wlaschin to document this claim, however.  Our current voting machines were purchased in 2017, and so are relatively new, and the voting machine software currently does allow a voter to select more than one candidate in each race.  I know this because I chair the Nevada Advisory Committee on Participatory Democracy.

Whether we will need new tabulation software for the voting machines or for the paper ballots is a question for the Secretary of State’s Office to determine.

That determination is part of the ballot question process.  The Secretary of State’s Office requests that the Legislative Counsel Bureau determine if a ballot question will require additional state funding.  This process is not yet completed as you can see here: https://www.nvsos.gov/sos/elections/2022-petitions

The ballot question is also a constitutional amendment and no part of the Nevada Constitution includes implementation costs.  If Nevadans put this new election process into the constitution, the Governor and legislators, who swear an oath to uphold the Nevada Constitution, will be obligated to fund it. If this does not happen, lawsuits are possible to remove derelict officials from office.

Also, in 2021, in Assembly Bill 126, the Democratic majority in the Nevada legislature approved a presidential preference primary for 2024 with a future fiscal note of over $5 million dollars.  Expanding voting rights and improving voter turnout were the rationales for approving this election change without providing a funding mechanism.  You can read the fiscal note here: https://www.leg.state.nv.us/Session/81st2021/FiscalNotes/779.pdf and a summary of the bill here: https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/81st2021/Bill/7448/Overview

  1. The description of effect is misleading.  The plaintiffs argue that the ballot question summary is misleading.  Based on our experience with the Fair Maps Nevada ballot petition, it is possible for the attorney representing the ballot question petitioners to ask the judge to request that the plaintiffs re-write the summary to make it more accurate and clear.

Beyond the three main complaints, the lawsuit includes quite a few assertions that the open primary and ranked-choice voting proposal is radical, complicated, and extreme.  It is disconcerting that lawyers associated with the Democratic Party in Nevada would use this type of negative election rhetoric considering how many election processes they have changed since the 2020 election. 

We dramatically changed our election process, including sending every registered voter a mail-in ballot, in 2020, and then the Democratic legislative majority voted to make all those changes permanent through Assembly Bill 321 in the 2021 legislative session.  All these changes were described as necessary to expand and protect voting rights.  Yet, when the people also propose to expand voting rights for nonpartisan and independent voters, only now we have gone too far?

The brief states that training election workers and voters on using ranked-choice voting will be insurmountable, yet we adopted a complete mail-in ballot process and educated the public about that change within a few months of the 2020 primary election due to the pandemic. And we have been told that the cost to continue this mail-in ballot process is necessary to expand and protect voter rights.

One election process that has not recently changed is our current practice of allowing any eligible Nevadan to file to run for any race (that does not have necessary qualifications, or is President or Vice President) as an independent candidate (nonpartisan) by merely submitting 250 valid signatures of registered voters for statewide races, or 100 valid signatures from registered voters for non-statewide races, plus any filing forms and fees.

Right now, unlimited numbers of independent (nonpartisan) candidates can run for almost all races and have their names appear on the general election ballot.  If this happens and we merely elect the candidates with the highest number of votes, theoretically, we could elect people who fall widely short of being consensus winners. Therefore, the open primary ballot petition is not making a dramatic change to current law in how many candidates can appear on the general election ballot it is just ensuring we are electing consensus winners. Here is the candidate guide for independent (nonpartisan) candidates: https://www.nvsos.gov/sos/home/showpublisheddocument?id=9605

And in the last presidential caucus in 2020, the Nevada Democratic Party used ranked-choice voting to apply a fair method for determining the true consensus candidate for their presidential nominee.  Not once did anyone in the Democratic leadership complain publicly about voters being confused by the process. If using ranked-choice voting in Nevada’s Democratic presidential caucus was good and proper, it should be equally good and proper for our general elections.

The brief complains that the ballot petition denies political parties their right to use the primary process to endorse candidates.  There is no established right to use a publicly-funded election process to accomplish a private political party function.  If either or both political parties would like to endorse a candidate, they can certainly run private caucuses to nominate or endorse preferred candidates. 

Related to this, the brief argues that if anyone can run for office as a Democrat or Republican in the general election without a party’s endorsement, voters will not know if the candidate’s views align with their chosen political identifier.  Vote Nevada and many other civic organizations publish voter guides and host candidate meet and greets before the general election to help voters research the candidates.  Many private organizations also endorse candidates after lengthy interview processes.  So, voters can easily do research about candidates and speak directly to them before voting.

The brief is silent on the fact that in an extraordinary and fundamental shift in our election process, due to a law passed in 2015, we now elect candidates in our closed primaries.  The law states that if only one party runs candidates for a partisan office, only the primary election winner moves forward to the general election ballot.  With regularly low primary voter turnout, we are now electing candidates to office based on a small sample of just one political party. 

The starkest example of this occurred in 2018 and could occur again in 2022 with the Clark County District Attorney’s race.  Because only two Democrats ran for Clark County D.A. in 2018, only Democrats who turned out in the primary decided for all Clark County residents that Steve Wolfson would be the District Attorney. Forcing voters to affiliate with a political party to have a say in important races like District Attorney is very concerning.

Doug Goodman from Sparks has been working on bringing ranked-choice voting to Nevada since 2013, so he has a wealth of information about the process on his website, including some court cases that refute some of what is argued in this lawsuit: https://nevadansforelectionreform.org/

Fair Vote provides additional information about how ranked-choice voting works: https://www.fairvote.org/

Doug also did a Zoom presentation for our Vote Nevada Civics Festival this summer on ranked-choice voting, you can watch it here: https://vote-nevada.news/Goodman-Open-Primary-RCV

I will send more information when it becomes available.

Thank you for being Nevadans with me,

Sondra

Vote Nevada: Solving Problems with Civics

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