Primary law subject of last-ditch effort
May 18, 2017
Anyone seeking to have a say in who holds Douglas County's partisan offices in 2018 will have to be registered Republican.
County business leaders attempted a last-ditch effort to get the state's primary law changed on Wednesday.
At issue is a 2015 law that awards a nomination to a partisan candidate regardless of who else is running for the office.
Prior to 2015, when two Republicans or two Democrats faced off for office without a third person running in an independent or minor party position, that race would go to the general election, where everyone could vote.
After the 2015 law, the winner of the partisan primary appears alone on the ballot.
On Wednesday, Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce Director Bill Chernock read a letter into the record supporting a change in the last before the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections.
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Chernock said fixing the new primary law was a goal for the chamber for this legislative session.
"When you have an election and only 30 percent of registered voters participate, and not everyone is allowed to vote, that's just wrong in our opinion," he said. "This was something we couldn't just sit back and not try to change."
Chernock said a bill sponsored by Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, earlier in the session creating an open primary would have fixed the issue.
But that bill never got a hearing, and another bill while heard was allowed to expire.
Chernock asked that lawmakers amend Assembly Bill 226 to include the fix.
According to Chernock, the law was changed in reaction to threats from minor parties, that he said the chamber doesn't think were appropriate given the threat.
"We understand legislators felt they had to react, but this caught everyone by surprise," he said.
Chernock said Wednesday's testimony was the last chance to get the issue on the record.
"It was mostly our goal to let the powers know that at least one group was not going to let it go," he said. "As long as my board allows me, we're going to keep shining a light on this issue to see if anything can be changed before the first election cycle."
As of May 1, there were 17,326 active registered Republicans in Douglas County, more than twice the number of the 7,493 active Democrats. Nonpartisan voters accounted for 5,039 active voters.
Partisan offices include lawmakers, Douglas County commissioners and the constitutional officers of clerk-treasurer, recorder, assessor and district attorney. The office of sheriff was converted to nonpartisan.
All voters can cast a ballot in nonpartisan races, including judges, school board members and district board members.