Recent Elections Show RCV a Recipe for Confusion

Kevin Dietrich

Talk in Silver State circles about enshrining Nevada’s presidential primary as first in the nation is out of place. Addressing the state’s inability to count votes quickly should be a priority before we focus the nation’s attention on our election process.

Some races in Nevada’s just-concluded midterm elections took several days to determine a winner, and all ballots weren’t counted until Nov. 15. Holding the first presidential primary loses its importance if it takes a week to count ballots and other states hold primaries in the interim.

Nevada’s ballot-counting difficulties should also give pause to those pushing ranked-choice voting. The Top Five Ranked Choice Voting Initiative passed with 53 percent of the vote earlier this month, but it will have to be approved by voters again in the 2024 election to become state law.

Nevada already has trouble tallying votes in a timely fashion; ranked-choice voting would exacerbate counting woes.

RCV, which would apply in congressional, gubernatorial, statewide executive and state legislative elections, would require voters to rank the top five candidates in order of preference when casting a ballot, rather than simply choosing the individual they believe would do the best job.

Races where neither candidate reaches the 50 percent mark would see the candidate who finished with the lowest numbers eliminated. The voters who backed that individual would have their votes reallocated to their second choices. The process continues until one candidate has a majority of votes.

It is not a process for the impatient.

Alaska, one of two states already employing RCV, didn’t announce results for the state’s House seat and one of its two U.S. Senate seats until Nov. 23 – more than two weeks after the election – because candidates in neither race received a majority of votes.

Alaskans’ experience with RCV has left some Alaskans puzzled.

“People are starting to look nationally and say ‘this could be the answer.’ I think they need to be cautious about that. … It’s very confusing,” Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, told The Hill.

Sullivan added that he heard from voters that they don’t comprehend the system.

Nevada voting laws have already been altered significantly during the past couple of years. Changes include the adoption of universal mail-in balloting, giving ballot harvesting – once a felony – the green light, and allowing most residents to vote without providing photo identification.

In the most recent election, held Nov. 8, tens of thousands of Nevadans’ ballots were counted not on election day, but in the days after the election.

State law allows for ballots to arrive as many as four days after the election and still be counted, hampering efforts to tally votes in a timely fashion.

In the 2020 election, it took four days to determine which presidential candidate captured the most votes in Nevada.

Vote-counting delays cause concern and undermine overall trust in the system.

If it already takes as much as a week to count votes in Nevada, imagine the chaos that could be created by ranked-choice voting, where residents can be forced to wait additional days and even weeks to determine winners. It doesn’t seem like a method that will inspire confidence in our elections.

Kevin Dietrich

Kevin Dietrich

Director of Mainstream Media

Kevin Dietrich joined Nevada Policy in 2022 and currently serves as the Director of Mainstream Media.

He has more than 20 years of experience in communications, including serving as the director of communications and marketing for the South Carolina Bankers Association, working as a speechwriter for South Carolina governor Mark Sanford and assisting with internal communications for CVS Caremark.

Kevin graduated from the University of Maine with a degree in Journalism and a minor in History. A fifth-generation Californian, he spent a decade as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, New York, New Hampshire and South Carolina.