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Nevada's Ranked-Choice Voting Initiative to Appear on November Ballot

Nevada would be the third state in the nation to employ ranked-choice voting

Nevada voters will decide if their state will adopt ranked-choice voting during midterm elections this November.

The Nevada Voters First Political Action Committee succeeded in its effort to have the initiative to appear on this year’s ballot after gathering enough signatures and securing the approval of the Secretary of State’s office.

“We’re ecstatic to not only have the ballot initiative verified, but the voice of Nevadans validated,” said Nevada Voters First campaign manager Joe Brezny said in a statement. “While there’s been opposition and challenges in court, every signature is a Nevadan’s voice who wants to change our antiquated system.”

Ranked-choice voting (RCV) systems are used in 2 states — Maine and Alaska, which is employing the process for the first time this year. Additionally, one county in Oregon and 52 cities across the country use ranked-choice to elect government officials.

In elections that employ RCV, registered voters rank candidates in order of preference. During a primary, the top portion of candidates advance. The top five candidates would advance under the Nevada proposal.

During a general election, the candidate that is ranked first by 50% of voters or more wins. If there is no majority winner, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. The votes are recounted with the second-choice candidates counted on ballots where the eliminated candidate was originally ranked first. The process continues until there is a majority winner. 

Ranked choice voting … makes democracy more fair and functional,” said Fair Vote, an election reform organization. “It works in a variety of contexts. It is a simple change that can have a big impact.”

Nevada Voters First submitted more than 260,000 signatures in June. The Secretary of State’s office verified over 170,900, surpassing the 141,000 required to have the RCV question appear on the ballot.

“The verification follows a legal battle in which opponents of the measure tried to block the initiative from moving forward, arguing that it didn’t pass legal muster,” reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “But the state Supreme Court last month voted 4-3 to allow the measure to move forward.”

The initiative would amend the state constitution to make RCV the standard voting process for all state and federal elections except for the president and vice president.

The amendment would eliminate the state’s current closed primary system where only registered party members are allowed to cast ballots. At least one political party conducts closed primaries in 14 states and Washington D.C. In Nevada, approximately 29% of the state’s 1.8 million active voters cannot participate in a primary because they are not officially affiliated with a party.

Some of the initiative’s advocates say switching to RCV will lead to more moderate nominees rather than those who hold more extreme ideological views.

Other critics of the initiative have said the process is more time-consuming and could be more problematic.

“It will inevitably lead to increased errors,” Emily Persaud-Zamora, the executive director of Silver State Voices, said at a news conference in 2021. “Ranked-choice vote ballots are significantly more likely to be thrown out and uncounted because of those voters’ mistakes, ultimately disenfranchising more voters because of an overly complex and burdensome process.”

The initiative must be passed by voters in both the 2022 and 2024 elections. If passed by the voters both years, Nevada would adopt RCV for the 2026 midterm elections.

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