Editorial: Take a pass on petition to eliminate primaries

With all the polarizing political rhetoric and bombast of this election year it is sorely tempting to grab onto any idea to lessen the load.

A petition called the Greater Choice-Greater Voice Statutory Initiative is currently being circulated. It proposes to eliminate the major political party primaries in Nevada. Instead, there would be only a General Election in November at which voters would rank the top three candidates in each race.

Any candidate ranked first on a majority of ballots would win outright, but if no candidate is the first choice of more than half of the voters, then all votes cast for the candidate with the fewest first choice votes are redistributed to the remaining candidates based on who is ranked next on each ballot. If this does not result in one candidate getting a majority, the next lowest voter choice is eliminated until a winner emerges.

A handful of municipalities and the state of Maine have experimented with this type of voting, and it is used in Australia.

Backers of this proposal — Nevadans for Election Reform PAC — filed the initiative with the Secretary of State back in September but did not get around to filing the actual 25-page petition until April.

The stated goal is to alleviate the gridlock that can result from the two-party system, though that seems more than a bit Pollyannaish.

The initiative is being pushed by a 69-year-old man who switched from being a Republican to a nonpartisan and is now miffed that he can’t vote in either major party primary — duh.

Perhaps he and other backers are not aware that anyone who wishes to actually, you know, vote in a primary election can easily change party affiliation online shortly before the election and then change it again after the primary. That’s practically the same as having open primaries.

Reportedly the measure would save the taxpayers money by eliminating the primary election, but one can only imagine the bewildering number of names that would subsequently appear on the fall ballot and then having the task of ranking three different candidates in every race from president to dogcatcher. The number of choices voters would be asked to make would be daunting, to say the least.

The petitioners have until Nov. 13 to gather more than 112,000 signatures to move it forward.

If successful the initiative would have to be approved by the Nevada Legislature and signed by the governor in the first 40 days of the 2019 session. If not approved in Carson City, it would go to voters in 2020.

Fortunately, the petitioners thus far have gathered only about 10 percent of the needed signatures. We would encourage anyone approached for a signature for this hare-brained scheme to take a pass.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.