Question 3: Election reform proposal ekes out victory, will return in 2024

By: - November 11, 2022 5:28 pm

A ballot for Alaska’s 2022 general election. Alaska in 2020 adopted a voting system similar to the one now proposed in Nevada. (Photo: James Brooks / Alaska Beacon)

Nevada voters have signaled they are open to changing the way they elect politicians.

Unofficial election results have Question 3, which proposes a new voting system that uses open primaries and ranked choice voting, leading with 52.5% support, or roughly 45,000 raw votes, as of Friday. Although there are still ballots awaiting counting, Question 3 seems poised to pass.

Nevada Voters First, the PAC setup to advocate for Question 3, declared victory Friday.

“Nevadans have shown their desire to put Nevada voters first and address political extremism and polarization in our state,” said Mike Draper, communications director for the PAC, in a statement.

Question 3 proposes a change to the Nevada Constitution, which means the ballot measure will need to be approved by voters a second time – in 2024.

If successful, it would be used for the first time in the 2026 election cycle. The new voting system would apply to Nevada’s congressional, gubernatorial, state constitutional and state legislative races.

Dubbed “Final Five Voting” by its creators, the proposed election system combines open primaries and ranked choice voting. Every candidate would appear on the primary ballot for all voters to decide, then the top five finishers would appear on the general election ballot.

On that general election ballot, voters would rank the candidates – first choice, second, third, etc. If one candidate receives more than 50% of first-choice votes, they are declared the winner. If not, the candidate in last place is eliminated, and those votes are transferred to their second-choice candidate. That process is continued until a candidate receives a true majority.

Currently, Nevada has closed primaries, wherein voters cannot participate unless they openly declare for a party. As of October, 32.7% of Nevada’s active registered voters are Democrats, 29.8% are Republicans, 29.9% are non-partisans, and 7.6% are registered to minor political parties.

Multiple political groups from all sides of the political spectrum openly criticized the proposed voting system, and the go-to lawyer for Nevada Democrats unsuccessfully challenged the question in an attempt to keep it off the ballot. However, Question 3 was boosted by more than $19 million in contributions – mostly from mega-rich donors, who contributed on behalf of nonpartisan groups focused on pro-democracy and election reform efforts across the country. Those groups include the Final Five Fund, Action Now Inc, Unite America and Represent US.

That money bought millions in advertising. The Question 3 campaign’s primary ad featured a nonpartisan veteran arguing that Nevada’s existing closed primary system disenfranchises one third of registered voters. Critics called it misleading for not mentioning the ranked choice voting component of the proposal.

While a formal political action committee in opposition to Question 3 was formed, it was not as aggressive or well funded in this election cycle. Opposition will likely be far more aggressive in 2024 when the question once again appears before voters for final approval.

“We look forward to an engaged discussion over the next two years leading up to the 2024 election and we are certain the energy and support for Question 3 will only continue to grow,” read the statement from Nevada Voters First.

Like the other two statewide questions on this year’s ballot, Question 3 saw more support in Nevada’s two urban centers – Clark and Washoe counties – than in rural areas. Only one rural county – Mineral – had a majority (52%) of voters approve the question.

Nevadans weren’t the only ones who embraced election reform this midterm election. Ranked choice ballot initiatives passed in several municipalities and counties, including Evanston, Ill., where it passed in a landslide with 82% support, and Multnomah County, Oregon’s most populous county, where it passed with 69% support.

Alaska voters in 2020 adopted an open primary/ranked choice voting system that is nearly identical to the one now proposed in Nevada.

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April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus

April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, three children and one mutt.

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