Voter Issues

APRIL 2020

• Nevada: True the Vote, a conservative organization that pushes voting restrictions in the name of supposed voter fraud and has been accused of trying to intimidate black and Latino voters into not voting, has filed a federal lawsuit opposing Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske's plan to hold the June primary under universal mail voting. The lawsuit claims without sufficient evidence that it would "all but ensure an election replete with ballot fraud" even though five states already mail every registered voter a ballot by default and have seen only vanishingly rare cases of voter fraud.

MARCH 2020

• Nevada: Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske and local election officials from all 17 Nevada counties have announced plans to conduct the state's June 9 downballot primaries almost entirely by mail. Every active registered voter will be sent a postage-paid absentee ballot that they can return by mail or at an in-person polling site, of which each county will have at least one. Importantly, these voters will not have to request a ballot.



• Nevada: A Republican state senator has filed a proposed ballot initiative that would end traditional primaries and switch Nevada's congressional and states races to a "top-two" primary system, where all candidates run on a single primary ballot and the top two finishers advance to the November general election regardless of party affiliation. Supporters are touting the measure as a way to open up Nevada's closed primaries, but rather than simply let voters choose which party primary to participate in, this reform would enact something entirely different.

The top-two primary has failed to work as intended in California and Washington and is notorious for producing outcomes that don't don't reflect the desires of the electorate. One chief reason why: A party can win a majority of votes cast in the primary yet get shut out of the general election simply because it fields a large number of candidates while the minority party only puts forth a few or even just two. Furthermore, primary electorates often feature very different demographic compositions than higher-turnout general elections, producing greater partisan and racial dissonance between the two rounds.

Proponents contend that top-two gives minority-party voters more sway to elect centrist candidates in same-party general elections in districts that heavily favor the majority party. But academic researchers have found little evidence for a moderating effect. Instead, this system creates perverse incentives where party organizations have to coordinate to advance particular candidates before primary voters even get a chance to weigh in, lest their party get shut out of a general election. That effectively shifts much of the nominating process to party insiders instead of empowering voters, which is the opposite of what top-two supporters intend.

Many of these problems could be avoided with an alternate reform such as instant-runoff voting (also known as ranked-choice voting), approval voting, or some other system that lets voters rank their preferences or vote for multiple candidates at once instead of in two separate elections. If supporters of this ballot initiative obtain the nearly 100,000 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot, legislators would first get a chance to consider it in 2021, but if they reject it as is expected, it would then appear on the 2022 ballot.



Nevada: A state court has ruled that a proposed redistricting reform ballot initiative contained "materially misleading statements" in its ballot summary, but the court let supporters begin gathering signatures after organizers revised and resubmitted the summary language. The court blocked language describing the commission as "independent" and resulting in "fair and competitive electoral districts" as an inaccurate summary of its provisions. As we have previously explained, this initiative would create a bipartisan commission appointed by legislative leaders and contains no provision compelling the legislature to fund it, which undermined supporters' argument that it would in fact be independent. Rev. Leonard Jackson, a politically active Las Vegas pastor who had filed the lawsuit trying to block organizers from gathering signatures, indicated he has not yet decided whether to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, supporters are proceeding to collect the nearly 100,000 signatures needed to make the ballot, which they must obtain by June 16. If the proposed amendment makes the ballot and passes, it would need to make the ballot and pass again in 2022 before the commission could redraw districts in 2023, which would mean replacing the maps drawn (likely by Democrats) immediately after the 2020 census.

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