Nevada top-two bill would make NV elections more fair - Open Primaries
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Posted by Jesse Shayne on February 02, 2017 at 10:10 AM

Top-Two Bill would make Nevada elections more fair

This article was written by Randi Thompson for the Reno Gazette-Journal

Last year, the Harvard Business School called the current partisan state of our political system the biggest obstacle to our economic progress and economic competitiveness. This is one time I’d have to agree with Harvard.

We’ve just completed one of the most contentious election cycles in recent memory. Our society is more divided along partisan lines than ever. Voters are frustrated that the ideological purity - or pandering to the far right and far left to win a primary – that is required of our politicians to fend off election challenges is making them ineffective.

The partisan rhetoric from politicians only incites their voters. More voters on the extreme right and left continue to protest, march, and burn flags. That is pushing more and more “middle of the road” Democrat and Republican voters to change their registration to non-partisan.

Just look at the statistics. Each month in Nevada, the share of voters not affiliated with either the Democratic or Republican Party continues to increase. Currently over 25 percent of Nevadans are not in the “two-party” system.

Something has got to change. I doubt it will start in Washington; I hope it can in Carson City.

The Nevada legislature starts next week, and there is a bill that can help tone down the political rhetoric and partisanship, at least in Nevada, and give voice to the growing segment of voters in our state who cannot participate in our primary elections.

Senator James Settelmeyer of Minden has a bill that would give all Nevada voters a greater voice in shaping the temperament and tone of future campaigns. The bill would essentially allow for open primaries so that all candidates running for an office could be voted on by everyone, regardless of registration. The people who vote in primaries tend to be on the far right or far left. In an open primary, candidates would have to reach out to the larger electorate, not the small, very partisan base. It would also allow Libertarians, Non-Partisans, Green Party – any candidate -- to compete on a level playing field. The top two finishers in the primary would go onto the General Election, regardless of party.

This system would still allow for candidates with strong “conservative” or “liberal” beliefs to run; but it would allow all voters to have a say on that important “whittling down” step that happens only in closed primaries now.

Several states currently use this system, so it’s nothing radically new. But if passed and signed by the governor, Nevada would be the first state to legislatively enact major election reform, as most states have implemented this change through voter petition.

But partisanship still runs deep in Carson. So, if you want to see this change, you’re going to have to get involved – especially if you are a disenfranchised voter who is sick of the extreme rhetoric.

Contact your own assemblyman and senator, and tell them you want to see open primaries, and urge them to support Senator Settelmeyer’s bill. Then I’d suggest you visit the Nevada Election Modernization and Reform Act website. There the man behind the movement, Douglas Goodman, will post email addresses of legislators for you to contact, as well as update you on the bill and its progress.

There are pros and cons to an open primary, and there are statistics on both sides that show it both encourages and discourages voter participation. But I think we all can agree that we need a change, and this bill may be a start.


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