Bill to sync city elections with regular elections would boost turnout

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Las Vegas City Hall
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Las Vegas City Hall

Moving municipal elections to even-numbered years to match federal and state elections would significantly boost voter turnout and produce higher-quality elected officials, Nevada lawmakers were told Thursday.

Wayne Thorley, the Deputy Secretary of State for Elections, said if the state passed Assembly Bill 50, which was heard during the Assembly Committee on Legislative Operations Elections, it would go into effect in 2022. 

Thorley told lawmakers odd-year elections municipal and local elections has been costly and resulted in low-voter turnout.

Take the 2015, April primary election for the City of Las Vegas. In a city with more than 240,000 registered voters, Mayor Carolyn Goodman won a little more than 20,000 votes — Goodman received more than 50 percent of votes cast, so no general election was held.

In 2017, odd-year elections cost Henderson nearly $600,000, the city of Las Vegas $700,000 and North Las Vegas $317,228.

Groups such as the Latino-outreach organization Mi Familia Vota, the ACLU of Nevada and the League of Women Voters of Nevada support the bill, saying it will get more people to the ballot box.

Beyond costs and low-voter turnout, the measure’s supporters also said current off-year elections result in poor candidates getting elected, as well subjecting voters to even more election fatigue from being  constantly solicited.

The bill’s opponents, which included the City of Henderson and the Nevada League of Cities, argued the bill would infringe on city’s rights. “A local government should have the right to determine its own fate regarding these things,” said Warren Hardy with the Nevada League of Cities.

Others said if an incumbent lost their re-election bid in November — or in June if they win the primary outright — it would create a lame duck period before the new candidate took office in January. They worried that could open the door where an official could make poor policy choices or even seek retribution while still in office.

As a consequence of playing with the election dates — if the bill passes — certain elected officials in various cities would have lengthened periods in office until the new election date takes effect in 2022. In the upcoming elections for Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson, city council and mayor candidates who win would serve longer periods. That’s the same for officials who were elected in 2015 and 2017 as well as municipal judges elected in 2015 — each term would be lengthened a year and a half.

“This is my concern,” said Assemblywoman Brittney Miller. “Seven-and-a-half years (for a judge) is very long and a 5-and-a-half-year council seat is quite long as well.”

Michael Lyle
Michael Lyle (MJ to some) has been a journalist in Las Vegas for eight years.  He started his career at View Neighborhood News, the community edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. During his seven years with the R-J, he won several first place awards from the Nevada Press Association and was named its 2011 Journalist of Merit. He left the paper in 2017 and spent a year as a freelance journalist accumulating bylines anywhere from The Washington Post to Desert Companion. While he covers a range of topics from homelessness to the criminal justice system, he gravitates toward stories about race relations and LGBTQ issues. Born and mostly raised in Las Vegas, Lyle graduated from UNLV with a degree in Journalism and Media Studies. He is currently working on his master's in Communications through an online program at Syracuse University. In his spare time, Lyle cooks through Ina Garten recipes in hopes of one day becoming the successor to the Barefoot Contessa throne. When he isn’t cooking (or eating), he also enjoys reading, running and re-watching episodes of “Parks and Recreation.” He is also in the process of learning kickboxing.

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