Katie Coombs: Getting involved in local politics - Open Primaries
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Posted by jesse shayne on January 20, 2017 at 10:45 AM

Katie Coombs: Getting involved in local politics

This article was written by Katie Combs for the Reno Gazette-Journal

The federal election is over and there is a new president of the United States. Most of the people I know weren’t happy about either candidate and ended up voting against someone rather than for someone.

There were definitely some die-hard supporters of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Drumpf, but many voiced concern about how out of control each party had become and how the voice of the people certainly wasn’t being represented if these were the best options.

While it is clear that as individuals, it is hard to have an impact on the outcome of federal elections, I think most people should consider getting involved in the issues that impact us on a state level. The best answer to frustration in our system is to work on changes here in Nevada that could ultimately impact the country.

A very important issue regardless of political beliefs or party affiliation is that of election reform. There are many problems that most people aren’t aware of, and some of the significant problems in our federal system were revealed this election cycle. On a local level, most people are not aware of a voting system that can exclude up to 90 percent of the voters in a district under certain circumstances.

For example, in my Assembly District 26, two Republicans were the only ones who filed to run for the seat. Our current rules had the candidates running against each other in the primary and the winner moved on to the general election unopposed. In fact, this scenario occurred in 21 races throughout the state this last election cycle. The voter turnout in the primary was roughly 15 percent in District 26, which means the ultimate winner was selected by approximately 10 percent of the voters who live in the district.

The only people allowed to vote for the eventual assembly member in the primaries were Republicans, which left out Democrats, independents, Libertarians, non-partisan voters and all other political parties. This effectively cut out 60 percent of the other potential voters for an important political position.

I recently met with Doug Goodman, an advocate for election reform in Nevada who is responsible for the bill draft request to change this outdated system. State Sen. James Settelmeyer filed the BDR known as the “Top Two” on Nov. 28. The bill will be submitted to the Senate Legislature Operations and Elections Committee, which is chaired by State Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro, a freshman senator. Cannizarro must approve a hearing for the bill. The bill would change the way elections are held by allowing the two candidates who receive the most votes in the primary to move forward to the general election. In my district, that would have meant that all of the voters would have had a choice rather than just the Republicans who voted in their primary. There are many positive outcomes for voters if the Top Two Bill receives a hearing and ultimately passes:

  • All candidates regardless of party would go on one ballot, which reduces the cost of the primary election.
  • The top two finishers, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election.
  • Potential reduction of negative campaigns and hopefully returns discussion to focus on issues since candidates must appeal to all voters.
  • Provides a more fair cost to the voters as currently all voters pay for primaries through taxes and may not ever vote for a candidate under the current system.
  • Helps people understand that their vote truly counts.
  • Increases primary election interest and voter turnout.
  • Places minor party and independent candidates on primary election ballot, giving them earlier influence.

There are several action steps you can take to get involved in helping a common-sense bill like this receive a hearing and ultimately be voted into law. First, contact your own legislator, and if you don’t know who it is, you can search for him or her at NV.gov.

You can also send an email to Cannizzaro at Nicole.cannizzaro@sen.state.nv.us asking her to give Settelmeyer’s bill for Top Two Primary a hearing. You can also get on social media and encourage your friends and family to get involved and call or send emails on this important issue.

If Nevada passes this bill, it would be the first state Legislature to take the lead in election reform. At a time where many voters are frustrated with the federal election of 2016, it is helpful to take action where your voice can be heard and you can make a difference.

You can also read more about this on Doug Goodman’s blog at nevadaelectionreform.blogspot.com. Personally, I am frustrated with some of the election laws that I know don’t make sense, and this is one of them. I watched the outcome in my district and knew that many people did not even have an opportunity to vote for the assembly person who would be representing the district. We can get our voting system back on track one bill at a time if we participate in the process.

Katie Coombs is the host of the radio show “Uncommon Sense with Katie Coombs.”


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