Driving to change Nevada vote to ranked choice draws criticism

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A proposed ballot initiative in Nevada seeks to change the state’s constitution to establish open primaries and voting by choice for general elections, but it’s not without criticism.

The Nevada Voters First political action committee is spearheading the initiative and must collect 140,777 signatures from registered Nevada voters by June 29 to qualify the measure for ballot in the 2022 general election.

Approval in November would ask the Nevada Legislature to institute the changes to the state constitution by July 1, 2025.

In the preferential ballot, voters are asked to mark the candidates in order of preference – and to mark as many choices as they wish. A voter can also choose only one candidate.

The proposal would establish open primaries, including all candidates regardless of party affiliation, competing in a ranked choice mode. The top five would qualify for the general election, which would also be held using ranked voting.

About 30% of registered voters in Nevada self-identify as nonpartisan and about 40% are not registered as Republicans or Democrats, said Sondra Cosgrove, a representative for Nevada Voters First and former president of the League of Women Voters of Nevada.

“That’s a lot of people being left out of important races,” Cosgrove said.

Election officials would count each ballot as a vote for the top-ranked candidate. If a candidate wins a majority of 50% or more of the first preference votes, that candidate would be the winner.

But if no candidate is ranked highest on the majority of ballots, the initiative proposes to continue the tabulation in sequential rounds with the candidate with the fewest first preference votes eliminated and their votes redistributed to the second choice of each elector.

This process continues until a candidate obtains the majority of votes.

Critics have many problems with the ranked choice system, including that it would confuse voters.

“Graded voting makes voting longer, more complicated and more confusing for voters,” said Emily Persaud-Zamora, executive director of Silver State Voices, who spoke at a recent press conference on behalf of of Let Nevadans Vote, a coalition. of 25 organizations dedicated to civic education and voter engagement in Nevada.

“This will inevitably lead to an increase in errors,” Persaud-Zamora said. “Preferential-choice ballots are far more likely to be rejected and not counted because of the mistakes of those voters, ultimately robbing more voters due to an overly complex and time-consuming process.”

Under the initiative, if a voter accidentally assigns the same ranking to more than one candidate, that ballot would be considered inactive and would not be counted. If a voter skips a ranking, the election committee will count the next ranking, but if another ranking is skipped, the ballot will also be considered inactive.

Cosgrove said the ballots would not be thrown away. If someone made a mistake on a race, for example, that race may not be counted, but the entire ballot will not be discarded. People leave certain breeds empty all the time, Cosgrove said.

In 2020, Democratic presidential caucuses in Nevada used preferential choice voting in which voters selected three to five presidential preferences on a ballot, Cosgrove said.

“Nobody thought it was confusing at the time,” said Cosgrove, who also serves as chairman of the Nevada Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on Participatory Democracy.

Yet the opposition remains.

There are already barriers in place for voters, from technology to language, said Eric Jeng, outreach director for the Asian Community Development Council, which has worked to provide Chinese translations of ballots. vote so that Chinese-speaking voters can understand them.

“It will set us back,” Jeng said at the Let Nevadans Vote press conference. “We believe in voter education and empowerment to make electoral and civic engagement easy and fair. … We want to make sure that the counting of the ballots has to be fast, has to be fast and to make sure that we trust the system.

Clark County Registrar of Electors Joe Gloria said he was neither for nor against the initiative.

A change to preferential voting would initially strain election administrators, he said, as they would have to train and teach the public. Ultimately, however, he said it would be doable.

The tabulation process is automated, Gloria said, and the system allows the registrar to rank the top three applicants. Depending on the “depth” that voters would like to follow in the rankings, election administrators may have to reprogram their system to allow the top five candidates to be ranked.

Preferential voting, he said, is something voters could learn from.

“We don’t give enough credit to the general public. They are learning,” Gloria said, noting the changes to mail-in voting in the 2020 election as well as the shift from punch card ballots to computer voting. “People here are used to change. … It’s not hard,” he said.

Ruben Murillo Jr., a retired Clark County School District special education teacher and former leader of the Clark County and Nevada Education Associations, said he doesn’t like to do ranking voting. part of the state constitution. It is more difficult to make changes and modifications to a constitutional amendment as opposed to state law, he said.

Opponents of the proposed question filed lawsuits seeking to keep it out of the ballot, but a Carson City judge in early 2022 dismissed a claim that changes to the primary and general elections violated the single subject rule for voting initiatives.

Fifty-five US cities currently use preferential voting for municipal elections.

Maine in 2016 became the first state in which voters approved the use of ranked ballots. According to the Maine Secretary of State’s website, ranked choice voting is used in all Maine state-level primaries and in general elections only for federal office. The Supreme Court of Maine issued an advisory opinion that general elections at the state level should be determined by a plurality of votes.

Ranked ballot initiatives have been proposed in other states. Alaska in 2020 is the only other state where such a ballot measure has been approved.

Cosgrove called the ranked choice natural behavior, so using it in the voting booth should be no different.

When she goes to a restaurant, for example, she may decide that she wants a Greek salad. But if the restaurant doesn’t have a Greek salad, she can opt for chicken fillets. And if they don’t have that, she’ll just have ice cream.

“We make ranked choices all the time,” she said.

Comments are closed.