Primary voting process needs fixing

If you don’t first succeed, try, try again. So goes the story involving State Sen. James Settelmeyer, who represents most of central and western rural Nevada including Churchill County.

The Douglas County legislator has introduced Senate Bill 103, a similar piece of legislation presented to the Austine body of lawmakers in 2015.

According to Settelmeyer, SB 103 will allow individuals to become candidates for partisan offices regardless of their political affiliation.

This bill seems to placate the Independent or nonpartisan voters who cannot vote in primary elections because they are neither Republicans or Democrats. Settelmeyer said in his bill any voter may cast a ballot in the primary election.

First, a red flag surfaced during the 2016 election cycle. The election for many offices was decided early in the June primaries if the other party didn’t field a candidate. Historically, voter turnout in the primaries stinks compared to that of the general election.

In Churchill County, only two candidates — both Republicans — filed for one commissioner district. Republicans voted in the primary election and retained incumbent Carl Erquiaga. The process disenfranchised all Democrats who did not have any voice in selecting a commissioner.

But Republicans shouldn’t gloat too much because in this unpredictable world of politics, the same could happen to them.

Likewise, if two Democrats had run for office, their political brethren would have selected one candidate as winner, thus denying other voters — such as Republicans — for having a say.

In Clark County, more than 80,000 voters couldn’t vote for a candidate because the change affected one Democratic senate race and two Republican Assembly races.

When SB244 passed both the Senate and Assembly in 2015, Gov. Brian Sandoval signed the bill. Did anyone read the bill?

Evidently, no one from both chambers of the Legislature and the executive branch looked at the ramifications of disenfranchising the state’s voters.

Settelmeyer’s bill calls for a wide-open primary where anyone — regardless of political persuasion — can vote. We can see a similar scenario occurring where the two highest vote-getters will move on and it doesn’t make any difference if both come from the same party or opposite ends of the political spectrum.

The major difference, though, from 2015 is the two top candidates move on to the general election.

Far from ideal, no voter is being disenfranchised, yet when the Senate and Assembly tinkered with the process two years ago, the system wasn’t broken. Now it is, and legislators must do something quick to fix it.

LVN editorials appear on Wednesdays.


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