There will be more contested state legislative primaries in Nevada this year than at any point since at least 2014. Of the 106 possible primaries, 48 (45%) will be contested by more than one candidate.
Contested Republican primaries, in particular, more than doubled this year compared to 2020 from 15 to 31. Contested Democratic primaries also increased from 14 to 17. These numbers represent the most contested primaries for each party since at least 2014.
Thirteen incumbents face contested primaries, representing 38% of those incumbents seeking re-election, the largest such percentage since 2016 when 41% of incumbents faced contested primaries.
The filing deadline for candidates running for state or federal office in Nevada this year was March 18. Candidates filed to run for all of the state’s 42 state Assembly districts and 11 of the 21 Senate districts.
Nineteen of those districts were left open, meaning no incumbents filed to run, the largest number since at least 2014. That represents over one-third (36%) of the districts holding elections this year, all of which are guaranteed to be won by newcomers.
Overall, 180 major party candidates filed to run this year: 66 Democrats and 114 Republicans. That’s 3.4 candidates per district, an increase from the 2.5 candidates per district in 2020 and 2.7 in 2018.
Nevada has been a Democratic trifecta since 2018 when Steve Sisolak (D) won the governorship. Democrats currently hold an 11-9 majority in the Senate and a 26-16 majority in the Assembly.
Nevada’s state legislative primaries are scheduled for June 14, making them the 21st in the nation.
Campaigns that support ranked-choice voting (RCV) ballot initiatives in Missouri and Nevada have received millions in contributions in the weeks ahead of their signature deadlines. Both of the ballot initiatives would utilize open primaries in which the top candidates, regardless of partisan affiliations, advance to the general election. In Missouri, the top four vote recipients would advance to the general election. In Nevada, the top five vote recipients would advance. In Missouri and Nevada, voters would use ranked-choice voting to determine who among the four or five candidates wins the election. Despite the similarities between the two proposals, each one has different top donors.
In Nevada, the PAC Nevada Voters First is leading the campaign and signature drive. The PAC received $2.26 million through March 31. Katherine Gehl, founder of the Institute for Political Innovation and former CEO of Gehl Foods, Inc., contributed $1 million. The Final Five Fund, Inc., which the Institute for Political Innovation lists as a 501(c)(4) counterpart, provided $488,000. The Nevada Association of Realtors and Strategic Horizons, a committee associated with the Clark County Education Association, each donated $250,000. Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, contributed $100,000, as did the organization Unite America.
In Missouri, the Better Elections PAC is leading the campaign behind the top-four RCV ballot initiative. Better Elections received $4.30 million through March 31. Over 98% of the PAC’s funding came from the organization Article IV, a nonprofit organization based in Virginia. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Article IV is associated with John and Laura Arnold, whose organization Action Now Initiative contributed to RCV-related ballot initiatives in previous years.
The signature deadline is May 8, 2022, in Missouri. The number of signatures required is equal to 8% of the votes cast for governor in the previous gubernatorial election in six of the state’s eight congressional districts. The smallest number of valid signatures required is 160,199; however, the actual requirement depends on from which districts enough signatures were collected.
The deadline to file signatures for the top-five RCV ballot initiative in Nevada is June 21, 2022. At least 135,561 valid signatures are required for the initiative to make the ballot. In Nevada, initiated constitutional amendments, such as the initiative, need to be approved at two successive general elections. So voters would need to approve the ballot initiative in 2022 and 2024.
Statewide RCV ballot measures have gone before voters in three states. Should the ballot initiatives in Missouri and Nevada make the ballot, the two would be the fourth and fifth states to vote on RCV measures.
Maine became the first state to adopt RCV for some statewide elections when voters approved Question 5 in 2016. PACs raised $2.94 million to support Question 5. Action Now Initiative was the largest donor, providing $470,000.
Two states – Alaska and Massachusetts – voted on RCV ballot initiatives in Nov. 2020. Massachusetts Question 2 was defeated, with 54.78% of voters rejecting the proposal. The campaign behind Question 2 raised $10.18 million, including contributions from Action Now Initiative, Unite America, and Katherine Gehl. Voters in Alaska approved Ballot Measure 2, which received 50.55% of the vote. Ballot Measure 2 replaced partisan primaries with open top-four primaries and established ranked-choice voting for general elections. The campaign received $6.84 million, with Unite America and Action Now Initiative as top donors.
The filing deadline for candidates running for state or federal office in Nevada was March 18, 2022. This year, 38 candidates are running in Nevada’s four U.S. House districts, including 21 Republicans, 12 Democrats, and five independent or third-party candidates. That’s 9.5 candidates per district, less than the 10.0 candidates per district in 2020 and 10.5 candidates per district in 2018.
Here are some other highlights from this year’s filings:
This is the first election to take place under new district lines following the 2020 census. Nevada was apportioned four congressional seats, the same number of seats it had after the 2010 census.
All four incumbent representatives are running for re-election in the district they currently represent.
Incumbent Rep. Steven Horsford (D) in Nevada’s 4th is the only incumbent not facing a primary challenger. Uncontested primaries in Nevada are canceled, so Horsford automatically advanced to the general election.
The last open seat elections in Nevada took place in 2018 in Nevada’s 3rd and 4th districts.
In 2012, the last election year after redistricting, there were two open-seat elections.
No districts are guaranteed to either party. Both Democratic and Republican candidates have filed to run in all four districts.
The 2nd district has 14 candidates running, more than any other district. Five Republicans, including incumbent Rep. Mark Amodei, seven Democrats, and two third-party candidates have filed to run.
Nevada’s U.S. House primaries are scheduled for June 14, 2022. Candidates who receive the most votes in the primary will advance to the general election.
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) signed new congressional and legislative maps into law on Nov. 16, 2021. These maps take effect for Nevada’s 2022 congressional and legislative elections.
Nevada is the 14th state to enact congressional maps this redistricting cycle, and the 20th state to enact legislative maps. During the 2010 redistricting cycle, Nevada enacted both congressional and legislative maps on Oct. 27, 2011, 20 days earlier than this year.
The maps were approved by the Nevada State Senate in a 12-9 vote on Nov. 14. In a press release, Democratic lawmakers said they planned to issue an amendment to the congressional draft map in the Nevada State Assembly that would aim to address requests from tribal communities in the state and the allocation of incarcerated individuals. On Nov. 16, the Nevada State Assembly voted 25-17 to pass the amended maps.
The maps were passed largely along party lines, with Democrats voting to approve the maps and Republicans voting against. The only Democrat to vote against the maps was Rep. Edgar Flores.
After signing the maps, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) said: “After a thoughtful, efficient and productive session, I am proud to sign these bills into law today. These maps reflect Nevada’s diversity and reflect public feedback gathered throughout the legislative process.” Rep. Brittney Miller (D) spoke before the final vote on the maps, saying: “These maps are fair and legal and accurately reflect the diversity of our state.”
Rep. Melissa Hardy (R) criticized the maps, saying: “A process that affects every person living in the state […] deserves to be thoroughly vetted and questioned by this body as a whole. Instead, there are a lack of answers to questions posed, an inability to ask questions of those who have the answers, and an overall lack of transparency throughout.” Rep. Jill Dickman (R) said: “This bill is universally disliked, but the reason has nothing to do with compromise because there was none.”
Here’s a summary of recent redistricting updates from Nevada and Utah.
Nevada: On Nov. 11, 2021, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) announced a special session to address redistricting would begin on Nov. 12. Legislators are expected to debate the congressional and state legislative maps released on Nov. 9.
Utah: The Utah legislature began its special session focused on redistricting on Nov. 9. The House passed a congressional district map proposal on the first day of the session, and the Senate followed a day later. Both chambers also approved legislative district plans for the House and Senate on Nov. 10. Gov. Spencer Cox (R) signed the congressional districts into law on Nov. 12, but as of Nov. 15, he had not signed the legislative map proposals.
Earlier this month, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) signed a bill into law that replaces the state’s presidential caucus with a primary and seeks to make that primary the first presidential nominating event in 2024.
Sisolak said, “This brings me great pride, as the diversity and culture found in the people in the great state of Nevada undoubtedly represent the demographical composition of who we are as a nation.”
Democrats and Republicans in Nevada are not unified in the push. Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael J. McDonald said in a joint statement with Republican leaders from Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, “As the GOP leaders of the four carve out states, we want to make clear that we stand together in protecting the Presidential nominating schedule as it has existed for many years. Our alliance is strong and we will continue to work together to preserve this historic process.”
The Democratic National Committee, which can penalize or reward states through delegate allocation based on when they hold their primaries, has not yet released its plans for the 2024 presidential calendar.
The debate over which state should cast its presidential primary votes first has centered on voter demographics, candidate viability, regional diversity, and structural issues.
After the results of the Iowa Democratic caucus were delayed for several days in 2020, Democratic leaders from Nevada and South Carolina renewed the call for a change to the primary calendar.
Click here to learn more about the arguments for replacing or maintaining Iowa and New Hampshire as the first states to vote during the presidential primary.
In November 2022, Nevada voters will decide whether to add the following language to Article 1 of the state Constitution:
“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by this State or any of its political subdivisions on account of race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, ancestry or national origin.”
The amendment was referred to the ballot by the Nevada State Legislature. An amendment proposed by the legislature must be approved by a majority in both the state Assembly and state Senate in two consecutive legislative sessions.
The amendment was first introduced on May 30, 2019. It was approved on June 1, 2019, by the state Senate in a vote of 18-3 and approved on June 3 by the state Assembly in a vote of 33-8. During the 2021 legislative session, it was approved by the state Senate on March 23 in a vote of 18-3 and approved by the state Assembly on March 24 in a vote of 30-12.
In support of the amendment, Sen. Pat Spearman (D) said, “When you stop and you take a look at my lived experience through the lens of my life, you know exactly why I support the ERA. If you can comprehend what it means to have to fight every day of your life to be recognized as equal, if you understand that, you know why we should vote yes.”
This is the third ballot measure to be certified for the statewide ballot in 2022. The state Legislature did not vote on two indirect initiated state statutes by the March 12 deadline, which sent them to the 2022 ballot. On initiative would increase the rate of the fee on monthly gross revenue above $250,000 to 9.75%. The other would increase the state’s Local School Support Tax by 1.5 percentage points with revenue dedicated to public schools and Tourism Improvement Districts.
In May 2021, Pennsylvania voters will decide a similar amendment that would add language to the state constitution that prohibits the denial or abridgment of rights on account of an individual’s race or ethnicity. It is also a legislatively referred constitutional amendment.
Between 1996 and 2020, Nevada voters approved 60.7% (51 of 84) and rejected 39.3%(33 of 84) of the ballot measures that appeared on statewide ballots.
The deadline for the Nevada State Legislature to act on two indirect initiated state statutes—the Gaming Tax Increase on Monthly Revenue above $250,000 Initiative and the Sales Tax Increase for Public Schools Initiative—was Friday, March 12. The legislature did not enact the measures by the deadline, which sent them to the ballot in November 2022. In Nevada, the legislature has 40 days from the start of the session to act on indirect initiatives.
Nevadans for Fair Gaming Taxes is sponsoring the Gaming Tax Increase on Monthly Revenue above $250,000 Initiative, which would increase the rate of the fee on monthly gross revenue above $250,000 to 9.75%. Currently, the Nevada Gaming Commission collects a tax on monthly gross revenue from licensed gaming facilities. The tax is imposed according to the following tiers:
• 3.5% on gross revenue of the licensee which does not exceed $50,000 per month,
• 4.5% on gross revenue of the licensee which exceeds $50,000 but does not exceed $134,000 per month, and
• 6.75% on gross revenue of the licensee which exceeds $134,000.
Fund Our Schools is sponsoring the Sales Tax Increase for Public Schools Initiative, which would increase the state’s Local School Support Tax by 1.5 percentage points from 2.25% to 3.75% with revenue dedicated to public schools. An additional 0.35% sales and use tax with dedicated revenues for public education was imposed on June 30, 2015, which brings the total tax to 2.6%. The new total Local School Support Tax under the initiative would be 4.1%.
The initiatives were certified to the legislature in December 2020 after the campaigns submitted more than the 97,598 valid signatures required. Fund Our Schools submitted 190,192 raw signatures. County officials verified that 137,791 signatures, or 72.4%, were valid. Nevadans for Fair Gaming Taxes submitted 201,935 raw signatures. County officials verified the 148,605 signatures, or 73.6%, were valid.
The committees sponsoring the two tax initiatives have received all of their funding from the Clark County Education Association. According to the latest campaign finance filings submitted on January 15, Fund Our Schools reported $1.14 million in cash and in-kind contributions, and Nevadans for Fair Gaming Taxes reported $1.09 million in cash and in-kind contributions.
Clark County Education Association Executive Director John Vellardita said the union is open to other legislative alternatives to fund education. He said, “If there’s an alternative that emerges, and it satisfies what we think needs to be done, we’re going to buy into that alternative.”
Between 1996 and 2020, Nevada ballots have featured 29 initiatives with 21 (72.4%) approved and eight (27.6%) defeated.
On March 6, 2021, the Democratic Party of Nevada conducted elections for its five leadership positions. Candidates endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America won all five posts: Judith Whitmer as chairwoman, Jacob Allen as first vice chairman, Zaffar Iqbal as second vice chairman, Ahmad Ade as secretary, and Howard Beckerman as treasurer. Shortly thereafter, the party’s executive director, Alana Mounce, informed Whitmer that she and the remaining staff and consultants were resigning their positions.
Whitmer said, “People should not be afraid of change. A lot of people are concerned when there’s any shift or perceived threat to the status quo. But it’s time. It’s time to move in a more progressive direction if we’re going to get people to turn out to vote.” According to The Intercept, an anonymous staffer said, “I knew I couldn’t work for [Whitmer] and watch her destroy the years of hard work so many operatives put into making our state party the best state party in the country.”
Commentators framed the results of the leadership election, and the subsequent staff resignations, as a reflection of a broader conflict between the progressive and moderate wings of the Democratic Party, both in Nevada and throughout the nation. Matt Viser, writing for The Washington Post, said, “At a minimum, the discord is expected to lead longtime allies of Harry M. Reid, the former Senate majority leader and the state’s most important political power broker, to build a political organization outside the state party structure. And it is fueling excitement among liberals nationwide who are pressing to increase the federal minimum wage, expand health coverage and combat climate change.” Sam Dorman, writing for Fox News, offered a similar interpretation: “The incident reflected longstanding tension within the party, which has seen conflict between more establishment members like Hillary Clinton and progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who identifies as a Democratic socialist.”
On December 15, 2020, county officials finished verifying signatures for the Sales Tax Increase for Public Schools Initiative and the Gaming Tax Increase on Monthly Revenue above $250,000 Initiative. The initiatives will be considered during the 2021 legislative session that convenes on February 1. If the legislature does not pass or the governor does not sign the initiatives, they will be put on the November 2022 ballot.
Fund Our Schools is sponsoring the Sales Tax Increase for Public Schools Initiative and submitted 190,192 raw signatures. County officials verified 137,791 signatures (72.4%) as valid.
Nevadans for Fair Gaming Taxes is sponsoring the Gaming Tax Increase on Monthly Revenue above $250,000 Initiative and submitted 201,935 raw signatures. County officials verified 148,605 signatures (73.6%) as valid.
The Sales Tax Increase for Public Schools Initiative would increase the state’s Local School Support Tax by 1.5 percentage points with revenue dedicated to public schools. An additional 0.35% sales and use tax with dedicated revenues for public education was imposed on June 30, 2015, which brought the current total tax to 2.6%. The new total Local School Support Tax would be 4.1%. The tax is expected to generate $340 million according to the Fiscal Analysis Division of the Legislative Counsel Bureau.
Local sales tax rates vary, creating a range of total existing sales tax rates in Nevada from 6.85% to 8.375%. The initiative would increase the combined state and local sales tax rates in Nevada to a range of 8.35% to 9.875%. If approved by the state legislature, the tax would take effect July 1, 2021. If sent to the ballot and approved by voters at the 2022 general election, the tax would take effect on January 1, 2023.
The Gaming Tax Increase on Monthly Revenue above $250,000 Initiative would increase the rate of the fee on monthly gross gaming revenue above $250,000 to 9.75%. Currently, the Nevada Gaming Commission collects a tax on monthly gross revenue from licensed gaming facilities. The tax is imposed according to the following tiers:
3.5% on gross revenue of the licensee which does not exceed $50,000 per month,
4.5% on gross revenue of the licensee which exceeds $50,000 but does not exceed $134,000 per month, and
6.75% on gross revenue of the licensee which exceeds $134,000.
If approved by the state legislature, the tax would take effect July 1, 2021. If sent to the ballot and approved by voters at the 2022 general election, the tax would take effect on November 22, 2022.
The committees sponsoring the two tax initiatives have received all of their funding from the Clark County Education Association. Fund Our Schools has reported $876,536.59 in cash and in-kind contributions, and Nevadans for Fair Gaming Taxes has reported $817,920.02 in cash and in-kind contributions.
At the outset of the signature campaign, John Vellardita, the executive director for the Clark County Education Association, said, “Our school system statewide is ranked last in the country in funding. And we’ve had three studies in the past six years, independent of each other, and they all came to the same conclusion that we need to adequately fund our schools to the tune of over $1 billion a year. … Our classrooms are the largest in the country, so this money would go toward reducing class size, it would go toward the type of resources and books in the classroom as well as getting teachers out here.”
The Nevada Resort Association and the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce are opposed to the measures. The Nevada Resort Association said, “As Nevada’s largest industry and economic engine continues to do all it can to recover and bring employees back to work, now is not the time to target the resort industry with a 44 percent tax increase that would further damage Nevada’s recovery efforts, create permanent job losses and further jeopardize capital investment and future economic development.”
Between 1996 and 2020, Nevada ballots have featured 29 initiatives with 21 (72.4%) approved and eight (27.6%) defeated.
Nevada is one of eight states with a process for indirect initiated state statutes. Indirect initiated state statutes go to the legislature when enough signatures are gathered, rather than going directly to the ballot. Indirect initiatives only go to the ballot if they are not approved by the legislature or are vetoed.