Voters come up short at finish line

Low turnout wasn’t the only challenge facing some down-ticket candidates in Clark County’s primary election. Aside from the difficulty of building name recognition in a climate of political disinterest, many candidates worried about ballot attrition — the number of voters who would simply quit before reaching the end.

Candidates for Family Court, especially, feared having their campaigns decided by a substantially smaller pool of voters because these races followed all the statewide and local partisan contests and a long list of District Court judgeships. This year’s election is the first in which every state court judgeship is up for election at the same time. The change made for a long ballot with a lot of candidates for voters to research.

Would voters be up to the task? Sort of, as it turned out.

Thousands of primary voters in Clark County skipped the judicial races altogether. Almost 123,000 ballots were cast, but no court contest received more than 104,130 votes. That figure was reached in Department 2, which not surprisingly was the second judgeship on the ballot and the first contested primary.

Thousands more voters skipped over the two dozen uncontested judicial races, which received between roughly 84,000 and 88,000 votes apiece. As voters made their way down the ballot, some gave up. Vote totals gradually slipped in the contested judicial primaries. In Family Court, Department T, the last state judgeship on the primary ballot, 97,344 ballots were cast — about 7,000 fewer than in Department 2.

The race for Clark County sheriff, which followed all those judgeships, saw more than 115,000 ballots cast.

It will be interesting to see whether the problem worsens in November, when nearly 30 court runoffs will be on the ballot.

So were voters paying full attention by the time they got to that Family Court, Department T contest? It doesn’t appear so.

Lisa Brown finished first in that race with 38 percent of the vote. She advanced to the November ballot against Maria Maskall, who received 32 percent of the vote. Incumbent Gayle Nathan finished last and was eliminated, making her the only incumbent judge to fail to advance from the primary ballot.

Nathan certainly had her problems. She rated poorly in the Review-Journal’s 2013 Judging the Judges survey, with 52 percent of attorneys saying she should not be retained. But Brown was a far worse option, having posted some of the worst scores in the history of the newspaper’s survey before voters sent her packing in 2008. In 2006, just 29 percent of surveyed lawyers said Brown should be retained. She was awful, yet she now has a very good chance at returning to the bench.

The valley’s family law practitioners very much want to improve the quality of judges they appear before. Brown’s win didn’t help that cause, and neither did Tuesday’s win by Linda Marquis in the eight-way primary in Department B. Marquis has a well-funded campaign and a lot of endorsements, but not much experience in Family Court. The court has seen enough judges try to learn the law on the job. It doesn’t need another.

Hashtags & Headlines

The Review-Journal’s Hashtags & Headlines policy luncheon on medical marijuana dispensaries, which was scheduled for Monday at Texas Station, has been canceled. The luncheon series will resume in September.

Glenn Cook ( is the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s senior editorial writer. Follow him on Twitter: @Glenn_CookNV. Listen to him Mondays at 4 p.m. on “Live and Local with Kevin Wall” on KXNT News Radio, 100.5 FM, 840 AM.

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