A proposal to move Nevada’s presidential primary election to February met resistance from county election officials who say it would create numerous logistical hurdles.
Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria and several other county election heads testified against SB 421 during a hearing Tuesday in the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee.
The bill, presented by Republican Sen. James Settelmeyer, would allow national political party heads to change Nevada’s current caucus system for selecting a presidential candidate to a primary election. It would also move the primary election date from June to the last Tuesday in February.
Gloria, testifying remotely from Las Vegas, said the February election date would create huge logistical problems for preparing the thousands of campaign workers needed to run an election. “It will be virtually impossible for us to get a full training schedule between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays,” he said.
Washoe County Registar of Voters Luanne Cutler said more than half of the county’s voting locations were in public schools, which could make it difficult to hold open polling locations in schools with operating classes.
Settelmeyer, who introduced a similar bill several sessions ago, acknowledged the difficulties involved with the change, but he said that current low turnout at caucuses gave him concerns.
“12 percent of the voters of the state of Nevada selected the leader of the free world,” he said, referring to a recent Democratic caucus turnout. “I don’t think that’s acceptable.”
Democrats on the committee, including Assemblyman Elliot Anderson, raised concerns that the earlier primary date would affect local and state elections, not just the presidential race. “My concern is that it’s going to really make a lot of people mad when we’re going and knocking on their door during the holidays,” he said.
Clark County Republican Party lobbyist Nick Phillips testified in favor of the bill on his own behalf. Phillips said that it would simplify the election process for voters and that candidates could work around the earlier election date.
“Clearly, knocking on someone’s door on Christmas or Thanksgiving might lose you some votes,” he said.
The Senate approved the measure on an 11-9 vote earlier in May, with Democrats opposing because the change in date for primary elections could lead to longer political campaigns.
The Assembly committee took no action on the bill.