The morning newspaper reports today that a change in the law in 2015 might effectively disenfranchise a number of voters in four Nevada legislative districts.
In one state Senate race and three Assembly races there are candidates on the June 14 primary for only one of the two major political parties. Previously, if there were only two candidates of a major party there would be no primary and both would advance to the General Election in November. If there were three or more candidates, the top two would advance.
But Senate Bill 499 changed the law and says: “If a major political party has two or more candidates for a particular office, the person who receives the highest number of votes at the primary election must be declared the nominee of that major political party for the office.”
Thus, for example, if there are only two Republicans seeking an office, one of them is the party nominee and appears on the ballot in November, leaving Democrats and independents in the district little choice save the one Republicans handed them.
The bill also moved back the deadline for independent and minor party candidates to qualify for the General Election from June to July, so a Democrat could still file as an independent but not as a nominee of the party. Minor parties may also nominate candidates.
According to the newspaper account, one Senate District in Clark County has two Democrats in the primary and no Republican. One Assembly District in Clark has three Republicans running and another only two Republicans. There are two Republicans seeking a Washoe Assembly seat.
The change in law creates some different dynamics in some races.
Take for example Assembly District 19, which includes Mesquite. Incumbent Republican Assemblyman Chris Edwards is being challenged by conservative Republican Connie Foust. As the newspaper reports, only 39 percent of the district is Republican.
Edwards has the distinction of voting for the $1.4 billion in tax hikes in 2015 before voting against them.
Conceivably Edwards would have a better chance of re-election if he faced Foust in a General Election with Democrats also voting rather than in a GOP-only primary.
Foust is thumping on the tax issue in her campaign against Edwards. “The current incumbent broke his promise when he said, ‘Now is not the time to raise taxes’, and then proceeded to vote for tax increases in 26 out of 32 tax bills!” Foust’s campaign website declares.
Similar dynamics could be a factor in other races.
AN ACT relating to elections; creating a modified blanket primary election system for partisan offices; authorizing any person who files a declaration or acceptance of candidacy and pays a filing fee to be a candidate for a partisan office at a primary election; providing, with limited exceptions, that the two candidates at a primary election for a partisan office who receive the highest number of votes must be declared nominees and have their names placed on the ballot for the general election; providing, with limited exceptions, that the two nominees on the ballot for the general election must not be affiliated with the same political party unless all of the candidates at the primary election are affiliated with the same political party; providing that the two nominees on the ballot for the general election may not be independent candidates unless all of the candidates at the primary election are independent candidates; eliminating provisions that prohibit a voter from casting a ballot in a primary election for partisan office for a candidate with a political affiliation different than that of the voter; making various conforming changes; and providing other matters properly relating thereto.
As signed into law the bill just changes minor party and independent candidate filing deadlines and allows only one major party candidate to advance from the primary to November.
The law of unintended consequences never can be repealed.