Vote—if they let you
You need to start voting in primaries again.
Just 6,232 Republicans, about 30 percent of the Republicans registered to vote in Assembly District 26, determined who will represent their district in the state Assembly last week, thanks to a law passed in the 2015 legislative session. The legislation allows primary voters to determine the winner of a race when the candidates are from the same party. The decision to elect Lisa Krasner was made with zero input from non-partisan voters or those who are registered in another party, thus disenfranchising the 13,534 Democrats, the 7,709 non-partisans and the 2,872 members of other parties, a whopping 54 percent of the district’s voters.
The same thing happened in the race to represent District 4 on the Washoe County Commission. There are 52,819 registered voters in the District, but only Republicans could vote in the primary race, leaving 30,270 voters, or 57 percent of the district, without a voice. They will be represented by incumbent Vaughn Hartung without any opportunity to vote for or against him.
This is democracy?
As the dust settles on the 2016 primary season, voters must demand that the Legislature reinstate their right to vote. It’s sad that most of Nevada’s voters can’t be bothered with sorting through primary races with multiple candidates, relying on inveterate voters from both parties to do the job for them. But it’s unconscionable to remove other voters from the process who do want to exercise their right to vote.
The Legislature should also revisit allowing primary voters to finalize non-partisan school board races. The Washoe County turnout for last week’s primary was 21.58 percent of registered voters. Those who aren’t a member of one of the two major parties often skip the primary since there are fewer opportunities for them to vote. One can make the argument that their lack of interest in voting isn’t enough reason to delay a decision until November, but shouldn’t we be using primaries to narrow the field instead of declaring the final winner?
The turnout in November is likely to exceed 80 percent due to the presidential contest and a competitive U.S. Senate seat along with spirited contests for control of the State Legislature. That would be the ideal time to let all the voters have a say on the new membership of the Washoe County School Board, a local elected body riven with scandal and controversy.
Other voting reforms that must be undertaken by the 2017 Legislature include bringing Reno and Sparks into compliance with the Voting Rights Act by returning to ward voting in general city elections. Legislators should also take up the cause of automatic voter registration or at least institute same-day registration. And need it be said we must abandon caucuses and return to a presidential primary?
Returning to this election, it’s clear that endorsements from former president Clinton, Sen. Reid, and the major unions combined with an indefatigable door-to-door campaign is a winning combination in a Democratic primary, as Clark Sen. Ruben Kihuen easily defeated two very competitive Democrats in U.S. House District 4. Despite the incessant demonization of Sen. Harry Reid by the GOP, Democratic primary voters still care what he thinks.
And judges should probably reflect on their own courtroom demeanor as Judge Conrad Hafen in Las Vegas was soundly defeated after placing a public defender in handcuffs last month when he deemed her too aggressive in pleading her client’s case.
As we lurch towards November, get ready for your television to be filled with back-to-back political commercials for president, U.S. Senate and two ballot questions of great interest to the public, background checks for gun purchases and legalized recreational marijuana. Even though some races have been taken away from you, there are still plenty more to vote on.