Municipal elections in even-numbered years would give voters a break

Legislators, I’m begging you. Pass Assemblyman Tick Segerblom’s bill to move municipal elections from odd to even-numbered years and combine city elections with state and federal elections.

Do it for the voters. Give them a slight break from political signs and political mailers and electioneering phone calls. Dump elections in odd years.

Ignore whispered objections from municipal candidates who prefer to run in odd years because there is less competition for campaign dollars. That’s no reason to segregate the elections.

Eliminating separate municipal elections in Clark County would save about $1 million per cycle, estimates Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax, who supports Assembly Bill 256. In Clark County, there are 40 to 60 contests in the even-numbered years. Adding a few municipal races isn’t going to cost any more.

Reno made the change in 1995. Now’s the time for Las Vegas, Henderson, North Las Vegas, Boulder City and Mesquite. It may require some politicians to serve shorter and some to serve longer terms to make the transition. That’s fine. Do it. It’s worth it, even if it means Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, elected in 2007, will serve until the fall of 2012 instead of the spring of 2011.

AB256 also would move the primaries to June, another plus for voters. Moving it from September to August certainly didn’t improve anything. But a June primary gives voters and the news media more time between the primaries and the general election to examine the qualifications of the final contenders, after the field has been whittled down.

The Assembly Elections Committee also discussed at length Secretary of State Ross Miller’s omnibus election bill, Assembly Bill 82, which does a boatload of things, including forcing candidates to file in January instead of May. No dilly-dallying with indecision. You’re in or you’re out.

The bill would require all candidates to file their campaign expense reports electronically, and that didn’t sit well with Assembly members Debbie Smith, Harvey Munford and James Ohrenschall during last week’s hearing.

Hey, folks. The 21st century is here. Let’s use technology instead of fearing it.

Filing campaign records online would make it easier for people to look at who is giving and who is taking and how candidates are spending their money, which sometimes is more interesting than who donates.

There’s a voluntary electronic filing system in place now, and only about 20 percent of candidates file that way. Plus it’s not searchable, so it’s not user-friendly by any means. Want to know who a certain developer or casino giant is giving to? Get out a pad of paper and prepare to look through hundreds of reports.

Miller’s bill is already under attack by Project Vote, which partners with ACORN to register minorities and low- and moderate-income voters. ACORN’s office in Las Vegas was searched during the presidential campaign for evidence of potential voter fraud, and the organization was criticized for hiring felons to register voters.

Miller’s bill prohibits a voter registration agency or county clerk from employing as voter registrars felons whose crimes involved theft, fraud or dishonesty. (So it would be OK to hire a rapist to collect names and addresses?)

Watching the apprehension of the Assembly members reluctant to file reports electronically makes me wonder how successful Miller is going to be in his efforts to boost Nevada from the 45th worst in the nation in campaign-finance disclosure, according to UCLA’s Campaign Disclosure Report.

"We all get tired of reading we’re in last place for everything," said Ellen Koivisto, chairwoman of the committee. "If this will help lift us out of the basement, that’s a good thing."

For decades and to no avail, I’ve argued our campaign disclosure laws are pitiful. And year after year, bills are introduced to "improve" them. And year after year those bills are gutted, usually in the state Senate, for being too "burdensome" on candidates.

Let’s watch what happens with Miller’s bill and see whether it’s amended into meaninglessness or if filing campaign reports electronically is just too darn burdensome.

But Segerblom’s bill moving the municipal elections should be passed. Tuesday’s municipal election turnout will be the best argument in favor of that bill’s passage. That, and the thought of saving $1 million every other year.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison.

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