weather icon Clear

Las Vegas voter turnout third worst in 20 years

Updated June 12, 2019 - 5:38 pm

Just more than 10 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot in Las Vegas races during Tuesday’s general election, the third-worst showing in the city in the past two decades.

And for all races in Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Boulder City on Tuesday, overall voter turnout hit 12.15 percent — good for seventh best of 11 municipal general elections held since 1999, according to a review of county election data.

But Tuesday’s low-turnout general election will be the last in Nevada. Under Assembly Bill 50, which was signed into law by Gov. Steve Sisolak on Wednesday, the odd-year municipal elections around the state will now be consolidated with even-year contests for president, Congress and state offices.

Low turnout, as well as cost to local taxpayers, were two of the main reasons behind AB50.

Tuesday’s paltry turnout underscores the challenge of getting voters to participate in elections during odd-numbered years, with no state or federal races driving them to the polls.

“I definitely think that is the key narrative about it,” said Emily Zamora, executive director of Silver State Voices, a progressive-leaning nonprofit that advocates for expanding civic access in Nevada.

Zamora said municipal elections often have more impact on the day-to-day lives of voters than do presidential races. Still, even-year general elections have much greater turnout in Nevada, with at least half of all eligible voters participating in, and even more during presidential cycles.

“Putting these elections in an even-year election actually brings more awareness … because people are attuned,” Zamora said. “They are paying attention more to what is going on.”

Doug Goodman, executive director of Nevadans for Election Reform, pointed to continued low-voter participation as clear evidence of why odd-year elections must be eradicated.

“What more could you add? This is it,” he said. “Yeah, this is proof.”

Governor signs bill

AB50 will now make all eight Nevada cities that currently hold odd-year elections, including Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson and Boulder City, align with state and federal races in even years.

Beyond shifting elections, it would mean that primary and general elections are held later in the year — in June and November instead of April and June. And it would make campaign fundraising more transparent.

The Review-Journal reported in March that a 2017 bill requiring quarterly filing deadlines for campaign finance reporting assured that candidates in odd-numbered year elections did not have to report anything until mid-April, or after the primary election was held.

With the move, Las Vegas city officials also expect to save $500,000 in flat fees paid to the county during each election cycle, but county officials could not be reached Wednesday to confirm.

Questions were raised about the even-year shift, particularly whether city elections will be overlooked as down-ballot contests. During a May 8 hearing of the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections, the argument was addressed by Wayne Thorley, deputy of secretary of state for elections. (His office proposed the bill.)

Thorley said the fear was unsupported by data. Others countered suggestions that voters would be overloaded by more candidates, noting how election cycles seemingly never stop in Nevada, with even-year elections in November followed quickly by odd-year contests the following April.

There were nearly 142,000 eligible voters in Las Vegas during Tuesday’s general election, according to county data. About 60,000 were in Ward 2; 45,000 in Ward 1; and 36,000 in Ward 3.

Getting elected to the council typically requires just a sliver of overall voter support.

“Las Vegas is the most powerful city in the state and why is somebody being elected to represent that city with only 2,000 votes?” Zamora said. “That doesn’t make sense.”

None of the three city council winners needed more than 3,000 votes to claim victory. In Ward 3, former Assemblywoman Olivia Diaz was elected with just more than 1,300 votes.

But even candidates have lamented the difficulty in voter engagement. Speaking to KNPR-FM 88.9 on Wednesday, Diaz said, unprovoked, that odd-numbered year races were “tough.”

“Folks are on vacation with their kids, and I think that voting goes by the wayside when you want to have fun in the summer and get away from Vegas,” she said.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Tomi Lahren Speaks at UNLV - VIDEO
Fox News contributor and UNLV alumna Tomi Lahren returned to campus Wednesday night for a speech, titled “Stay Triggered,” that drew an auditorium of supporters as well as a group of protesters outside. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders released from Las Vegas hospital - VIDEO
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., issues a statement after he was released from Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, after suffering a heart attack earlier in the week. (Bernie Sanders via Twitter)
Democratic presidential candidates speak on impeachment - VIDEO
Democratic presidential candidates attending the March for Our Lives/Giffords Gun Safety Forum in Las Vegas comment on possible impeachment proceedings. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden Las Vegas Rally Highlights - Video
2020 presidential candidate, Joe Biden, came to Las Vegas to talk guns, climate change and the Ukranian-Trump scandal. Biden was interrupted by a protestor who sat amongst supporters at the rally and continued with his speech. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden comments on Trump and his campaign efforts in Nevada - Video
After an impeachment inquiry was opened on Donald Trump, Joe Biden talks with Review-Journal politics reporter Rory Appleton about Trump and his campaign in Nevada. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders Unveils Affordable Housing Plan - Video
Bernie Sanders sits down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to talk about his new affordable housing plan he unveiled at Plumbers & Pipefitters.
Jim Marchant talks gun control and Dreamers - Video
Republican Candidate for District 4 Jim Marchant talks about gun control and immigration policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hurricanes, Gender, and Science in the Press
Imagine if the mainstream media’s current hurricane-sized obsession with scientific accuracy applied to gender.
Cory Booker on college tuition and minimum wage
Cory Booker talks on the RJ Politics podcast about college debt, informing workers about their rights and livable wages.
Nevada Politics Today: Teacher raises - VIDEO
Jason Goudie, the chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, talks about teacher pay and raises. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Nevada Senate leader Kelvin Atkinson sentenced to prison
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Russia becomes de facto power broker in northern Syria

Russia moved to fill the void left by the United States in northern Syria, deploying troops Tuesday to keep apart advancing Syrian government and Turkish forces.

Bolton called Giuliani a ‘hand grenade,’ testifies ex-White House aide

Fiona Hill, a former White House adviser on Russia, told House impeachment investigators behind closed doors that she had strongly and repeatedly objected to the ouster earlier this year of former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, according to a person familiar with the testimony.

Biden, Warren, Sanders face scrutiny as 12 Democrats debate Tuesday

A dozen Democratic presidential candidates will meet Tuesday for the most crowded presidential debate in modern history. But it’s the three leading candidates — Biden, Sanders and Warren — who face the most intense spotlight.

Controversial Las Vegas domestic violence law moves forward

A new Las Vegas city ordinance would carry the same penalties for people convicted of domestic violence as Nevada state law, but would eliminate the requirement for convicts to give up their firearms in order to avoid holding jury trials for each offense.

Census Bureau asking states for data, including citizenship info

The U.S. Census Bureau is asking states for drivers’ license records that typically include citizenship data and has made a new request for information on recipients of government assistance, alarming some civil rights advocates.

Ex-National Security Council expert on Russia testifying to Congress

Fiona Hill, a former top National Security Council expert on Russia, was testifying to Congress behind closed doors Monday, the latest former Trump administration official to be subpoenaed as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

US pulls troops in north Syria, Trump threatens Turkey sanctions

The United States appears to be heading toward a full military withdrawal from Syria amid growing chaos, cries of betrayal and signs that Turkey’s invasion could fuel a broader war.