The choice is theirs to make. If state legislators make the right choice between now and the start of the next legislative session in February 2015 and then follow through during the session, Nevada will have the most inclusive voting process in the nation.
Since September of last year, I have been meeting with state legislators, civil liberty, voting rights, and business interest groups, legislative caucus leaders, secretary of state candidates, and election officials. With minor exceptions, my proposal has been well received. Most I have spoken with found it worthy of discussion. Some expressed real interest.
All legislators I have met with have a copy of a draft bill to revise the state’s election statute. If introduced, passed, and signed by the governor, no registered voter, regardless of party registration, would be denied the right to vote in any election. No qualified candidate, regardless of registration, would be prevented from appearing on the primary election ballot, and the person elected to any office would have a real majority -- no less than 50% +1 of the votes cast.
- Top-three, open, nonpartisan blanket primary.
- Use of Ranked Choice / Instant Run-off Voting (RCV / IRV) in the general election.
Why top three? Studies have shown that open blanket primaries draw candidates closer to the median voter. However, based on election results, top-two primaries have removed minor party and independent candidates from the general election ballot.
Unless the primary for any given office is overrun by major party candidates, a minor party or independent candidate has a much better chance of advancing under a top-three format. If three or less candidates run and one of those candidates is from a minor party or is an independent, as is frequently the case, all move to the general election. A broader discussion of the issues will benefit all candidates and the electorate.Why RCV / IRV? Elected officials like to say they were elected with a mandate simply because they won. Many times, though, victory was only with a plurality.
Since only three candidates are competing, only one run-off round is required if no candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes. The result is a true majority of at least 50% +1 of the votes cast. The claim of a mandate is justified.
What happens if a candidate receives the majority in the primary? That candidate is elected. The office would not be contested in the general election. There is a benefit to voters as well. Many times a voter will face an internal conflict: vote for the preferred candidate or succumb to “I don’t want to waste my vote” syndrome. This conflict is resolved by the use of a second-choice vote.
This proposal offers advantages to all political parties, all candidates, all voters, and for the state of Nevada. Because of this inclusive, positive approach, there is a possibility this bill will be filed and debated by the Nevada Legislature next year.
No state uses a top-three primary. No state uses RCV / IRV on a statewide basis. To my knowledge, no state has considered combining the two processes. Nevada is poised to lead the nation. Voters need to express their support to legislators. It is up to the legislature to make the right choice.