This midterm election, Nevadan voters, by a slim majority of 52.8 percent, voted “Yes” on ballot initiative question three which establishes open top-five primaries and ranked-choice voting. The only two states in the country at the moment that have implemented ranked-choice voting for statewide elections are Maine and Alaska. This new development brings Nevada one step closer to potentially becoming the third state to establish ranked-choice voting. This proposed electoral reform would bring an amendment to the Nevada Constitution to require that most state and federal elections in Nevada, excluding the presidential election, move to a ranked-choice voting system.
This includes the U.S. Senate and congressional races, legislative elections, and statewide office positions. Primary elections would be open to all registered voters regardless of party affiliation and the top five candidates from the primaries would then advance to the state’s general elections that will also have a ranked-choice voting system. Voters at that point would rank their choices for political candidates from 1-5 by order of preference instead of voting for just one candidate. Under this new system, a candidate would need to win a majority of votes, meaning more than 50 percent, in order to win and be elected to office.
If no one wins a majority of votes then the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes would be eliminated, with their “votes” redistributed based on the second preference of those individual ballots. This process would continue until only two candidates remain, or a candidate wins the majority of votes. This election reform proposal passed with a slim majority as it has a fair amount of supporters but a substantial amount of bipartisan critics across the political spectrum. Supporters of the proposal including Nevada Voters First, the political action committee pushing for the passage of Question 3, argue that this electoral reform will add more voices and choices for voters in both primary and general elections.
Especially for nonpartisan voters who are a sizable population of registered voters in the state but across the country. Another point is that it promotes bipartisanship and moves away from campaign cycles that focus more on divisive rhetoric than policy positions. Mike Draper, the communications director for Nevada Voters First stated: “Campaigning this cycle wasn’t based on vision. It wasn’t based on accomplishment. It wasn’t based on inspiration or aspiration. And I think that’s what people really want to see.”
Opponents, including Republicans, establishment Democrats, and various political groups have voiced their collective opposition to the measure. Common criticisms are that the proposal is confusing, complicated, could undermine democracy, and would not work within Nevada as it does for other states. There has also been criticism regarding the amount of funding the measure received from out-of-state donors across the country and political spectrum. Nothing is set in stone yet because voters will need to approve the measure again in 2024 since it aims to make changes to the Nevada Constitution.
If approved, Nevadans can see these electoral changes implemented by 2026. Until then there will be a lot of political messaging around this topic as it continues to grow as a popular electoral alternative.