By the Las Vegas Review-Journal Editorial Board, October 29, 2023
If you want to vote in a political party’s primary, join the party. That’s not too much to ask.
Next year, Nevada voters will decide the fate of Question 3, a constitutional amendment that would introduce jungle primaries and a radical change in the process called ranked-choice voting. The measure narrowly passed in 2022. If it passes next year, it becomes law.
In this ranked-choice voting scheme, candidates from every party would appear on the primary ballot. The five candidates who received the most votes would go on to the general election. That almost certainly would include multiple Republican or Democrat candidates. In the general election, voters would select their favorite candidate and then rank the other choices in order of preference.
If a candidate gets 50 percent, he or she wins. If no one does, the lowest-ranked candidate is eliminated. Those votes are then redistributed to other candidates based on who voters selected as their second choice. The process is repeated until somebody earns 50 percent.
This is a system only a bored accountant could love. It’s complicated. It’s confusing. Voters who select only one candidate lose their vote in later rounds. In some close races in Washington and California — where forms of this approach are already in place — the ultimate winner received less than a majority because of ballot exhaustion.
In contrast, the current system is straightforward. Party voters select their nominees in a primary election. The candidate who receives the most votes wins the nomination and appears on the general election ballot in November.
It makes sense for Republican and Democratic voters to pick the candidates they want representing their parties. Primary voters must balance how much they agree with a candidate and their appeal to the general electorate. This is why primaries don’t always produce more ideologically consistent candidates.
In 2022, Gov. Joe Lombardo beat a host of challengers who were running to his right. In 2018, former Gov. Steve Sisolak defeated then-Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who was more liberal. In lower-profile races, candidate quality, fundraising prowess and willingness to door-knock matter tremendously. Those attributes don’t fit into an ideological box.
Some independent voters want a say in the candidates each party selects. “It is incredibly frustrating to be a nonpartisan and not have a voice,” said Ash Mirchandani, the Las Vegas resident founded the Coalition of Independent Nevadans.
There’s a solution. Register as a Republican or a Democrat to vote in the primary. Switch back to nonpartisan after the election. Instead, Question 3 would upend voting as we know it. That’s a bad idea.