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Henderson could switch to ward-only voting for City Council

Henderson residents will be asked to change how they vote on City Council elections when they take up Question 1 on the November ballot.

Currently, all Henderson voters cast ballots for the mayor, municipal judges and members of the City Council, who must live in the ward they represent. But if Question 1 is approved, only voters from specific wards would vote for that ward’s representative on the City Council.

The question was authorized by Assembly Bill 282 of the 2019 legislative session, which was introduced by former Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel and passed with nearly unanimous bipartisan majorities in both houses of the Legislature.

Advocates for the measure say it would make council members more responsive to constituents, since they would be elected only by voters in their ward, allowing them to become experts on issues in each of the city’s four wards. They also argue it would increase the potential for minority groups to elect someone from their community to the City Council, which is more difficult when all voters citywide are choosing candidates.

In addition, advocates say it would be easier and less expensive to run for the City Council, since candidates would only have to run from a single ward rather than seeking support across the entire city. Ward-only voting is also recommended by groups such as the International City/County Management Association, the National Civic League and the American Society for Public Administration, according to arguments written in support of Question 1.

Currently, Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Clark County elect representatives by ward-only voting.

But opponents say the measure would harm the city by creating a situation in which individual council members fight among each other for resources for their particular ward, rather than cooperate together for the good of the entire city.

It would also prevent council members from being accountable to all voters in the city; each council member would have to consider only the concerns of the residents of their ward, rather than voters citywide, when making decisions.

Question 1 won’t cost Henderson taxpayers any additional money, and in one situation, might actually save money: If a special election for a council position needs to be held outside the regular two-year election cycle to fill a vacancy, a single-ward election would cost about $450,000 instead of the $1.4 million to hold a special election citywide, according to the official digest published by Clark County.

A “yes” vote on Question 1 would make the switch to ward-only voting for City Council members; a “no” vote would leave the system as it is. No matter how the vote goes, the mayor and municipal judges would still be elected by all voters citywide.

Contact Steve Sebelius at SSebelius@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0253. Follow @SteveSebelius on Twitter.

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