May 28, 2024 5:19 am
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For some Nevadans, voting in the June primary has already started

Credit: iStock

April Corbin Girnus, Nevada Current
April 24, 2024

Nevada lawmakers should consider charging a filing fee to candidates in future presidential preference primaries, members of an advisory committee suggested Tuesday.

The Silver State held its first presidential preference primary election in February. Thirteen candidates appeared on the Democratic ballot. Seven appeared on the Republican ballot. (A “none of these candidates” option also appears on both ballots.)

Theoretically, the list of candidates could have been a lot longer. And not just because the Nevada State Republican Party held its own competing caucus with rules meant to ensure candidates skipped the state-run election.

Nevada does not charge a filing fee to people wishing to appear on a presidential preference primary ballot.

“We were curious what that would result in,” Mark Wlaschin, the deputy secretary of state for elections, told an advisory committee on participatory democracy. If every natural born citizen 35 years or older filed for office, Nevada’s ballot could have more than 50 pages for each party. “That would have been expensive.”

Wlaschin said discussions about requiring a filing fee did take place during the last legislative session but ultimately nothing was included in the bill that established the presidential preference primary.

While candidate numbers for the 2024 presidential preference primary were ultimately “not a problem” for the state, Wlaschin said, lawmakers could consider establishing a filing fee “to ensure Nevadans are not being taxed by excessively large ballot sizes.”

New Hampshire, another early state in the presidential nominating process, charges candidates a $1,000 filing fee in an effort to deter those who are not serious about running for president, said Wlaschin. New Hampshire’s 2024 presidential primary ballot included 21 Democrats and 24 Republicans.

Nevada does charge some presidential hopefuls a filing fee. Independent presidential candidates who want to appear on a November general election ballot must pay $250.

“I would hope that is something that will be rectified in the ‘25 or ‘27 session,” said Doug Goodman, a member of the committee. “We are further subsidizing a private organization.”

Pauline Lee, another member of the committee, agreed that the state should “be fair for all candidates.”

First votes cast for June primary

Votes have already been cast in Nevada’s June primary, despite election day still being roughly seven weeks away.

Nevada’s Effective Absentee System for Elections (EASE), which allows active duty military members, residents living overseas, tribal members and voters with disabilities to cast ballots electronically, went live Monday. Seven people had used the system as of Tuesday afternoon, according to Wlaschin.

EASE accounts for a small fraction of total voters in any election but it marks the start of votes being cast.

Election officials follow myriad deadlines set in federal and state law. Counties are required to send mail ballots to their overseas voters by Saturday, April 27 and to their out-of-state voters by May 2, or 40 days before election day

The deadline for distributing sample ballots to in-state voters is May 8, and the two-week, in-person early voting period will run from May 25 to June 7.

Primary Election Day is June 11.

Goodman expressed concern that Nevadans might not understand that the presidential preference primary is different from the June primary: “My fear is that there are going to be voters who will not turnout for the June primary, thinking ‘I’ve already voted.’’

Speaking of turnout…

Wlaschin provided the participatory democracy committee with some data on the presidential preference primary.

Turnout for the Democratic presidential preference primary was 22.5% and turnout among Republicans was 14.3%. Both figures represent the percentage among voters who were registered to each party on the date of the presidential preference primary.

Wlaschin noted that, because Nevada offers same-day voter registration, the roughly 800,000 voters who were registered to third parties or as nonpartisans had the option of committing to a major political party and participating in a presidential primary.

More than three-fourths — 78% — of voters in the presidential preference primary weighed in via a mail ballot, which they returned either through the mail or in-person at a physical dropbox. Only 11% cast ballots in-person during the one-week early voting period, and 10% voted in-person on the date of the presidential preference primary.

That use of mail ballots is significantly higher than in the last election cycle, where mail ballots represented 51% of turnout. Wlaschin told the committee a number of factors might contribute to that spike, including the timing of the election (in winter), the shorter early voting period (June and November elections have a two-week early voting period), or the nature of the races (the Democratic presidential primary was uncompetitive, while the Republican presidential primary did not include the party’s top contender).

“Suffice to say, it does appear that voters are interested in using their mail ballots,” added Wlaschin.

The embrace of mail ballots differed by political party, according to the secretary of state’s final voter turnout report, but was still widely popular among both parties. Mail ballots represented 80% of Democratic turnout and 49% of Republican turnout.

Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Nevada Current under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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