Third parties wary of Nevada Ballot Question 3

Smaller parties fear Question 3 will knock them off the primary ballot.
Published: Oct. 28, 2022 at 6:41 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) -The argument for the passage of Question 3 TV ads is simple and persuasive: thousands of Nevadans are being excluded from the process that chooses who will be on the general election ballot. A non-partisan open primary would bring them into the process.

Seems fair, but some are arguing it would reduce the chances of third-party candidates, perhaps even mean the eventual end of their party itself.

“The smaller parties, the minor parties don’t want this to pass,” says Independent American Party Treasurer Lynn Chapman. “This would be devastating to the minor parties.”

The Independent American Party represents 80-thousand Nevadans. Each year they, the Libertarian Party and occasionally others, appear on the ballot, widening the voters’ choices of candidates and ideologies.

That would be lost, Chapman says, under the part of Question 3 which goes unmentioned in those ads, ranked-choice voting. It would create a non-partisan, so-called “jungle primary” that would present the voter with a full menu of all candidates from all parties, inviting them to rank them in descending order, then determine the winners, by a multi-step elimination process from the bottom.

“Everybody’s names will go in together and you’re not going to be able to find out who is who from what party,” says Chapman.

The IAP and the Libertarians choose their candidates at their state conventions.

The reason we joined the party is we feel it represents us.” says Washoe County Libertarian Chair Chris Orton. “So, if we can’t find someone to represent us in an election that’s pretty frustrating. That’s the whole point of the convention in the first place.”

Orton’s speaking for himself. The state Libertarian party has taken no position on question 3. Its voters’ guide at www.lpnevada.org lists arguments for and against. He says he finds ranked choice voting an intriguing option for voters, but he too worries about question 3′s impact on his party.

“Politics is run by money and don’t tend to have as much as the Republican or Democratic parties. We’re going to have an if not impossible, an extremely difficult time just surviving.”

The reason third parties may have more at stake is that they need to garner enough votes to remain on the ballot next time around. Access to the ballot somewhere is literally a matter of survival.