VETTE’S VEGAS VOICE: Crazy new Nevada law strips away voters’ rights
BY YVETTE WILLIAMS
Yep, you read the headline right: Approximately 80,000 U.S. citizens living in Nevada are prevented fair access to the ballot box in several races in this upcoming primary election, due to the bipartisan passing of Nevada Senate Bill 499. Where 100% of the Nevada Senate voted yes and only 15 members of the Assembly opposed efforts to restrict access to the ballot box. To see the complete list of legislators supporting this bill and those that courageously did not, go to http://bit.ly/1Ssgvxw.
This legislation has created a real paradox for many legislators, considering their public position on protecting voting rights for everyone. What makes this decision troubling is — given the party’s efforts to control who runs for office in a primary — it supports an environment where citizens desiring to serve outside the establishment have very little chance at success. Unlike in past years, where primary challengers were welcome, now they are being discouraged and sometimes rebuked for wanting to serve. This frustration is expressed time after time by our youth — the demographic with the highest non-partisan registration. We need to protect this basic tenet of democracy and allow the primary election to work as intended. Let the people decide.
Previous to the new law, every voter could ultimately vote for their choice to represent them in Carson City, either in the primary or the general election — but every voter had a voice. If there were only two candidates and both were from the same party, candidates would bypass the primary election and go to the general election. All registered voters from any party or without a party affiliation could cast a ballot in the general election. On the other hand this new law silences voters by preventing access to the ballot box based on party affiliation or having none at all.
For example, in Nevada Senate District 4, there are only two candidates running: Stephen Harvey Munford against Kelvin Atkinson, the established candidate. Both are Democrats. Given that only Democrats can vote in a Democratic primary, non-partisan and Republicans cannot vote in this race.
As quoted in the Review-Journal, Atkinson argues that his support of this bill does not prevent those voters from casting a ballot; they can simply change their party affiliation so they can vote in the SD4 primary race if they choose to. I, on the other hand do not believe you should have to change your party affiliation to vote for your representative. The ramifications are much more than this one race. By changing party affiliation, the voter is now unable to vote for the remaining slate of candidates he or she may want to support, such as their Assemblyman, Congressman, or Senator. This is called voter disenfranchisement — it is very much unethical, and violates everyone’s right to fair and accessible elections.
If the Nevada Legislature’s goal was to provide more access for candidates running as non-partisan and minor party candidates, that was a much easier fix. Instead, voters in Nevada are left wondering if the “fix” is in.
Yvette Williams is founder of the Clark County Black Caucus. Read her blog at www.YvetteBWilliams.com, follow her on Twitter @YvetteBWilliams, and send email to ClarkCountyBlackCaucus@gmail.com.