New local election law shifts term lengths, cuts costs for Southern Nevada cities

Image

Steve Marcus

Voters make their selections at Estes McDoniel Elementary School in Henderson Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.

Tue, Jun 25, 2019 (2 a.m.)

Say goodbye to spring elections in Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson and Boulder City.

A new state law requires that all Nevada municipalities, during even-numbered years beginning in 2022, conduct elections corresponding with county, state and federal elections.

Under Assembly Bill 50, all municipal primary races in Nevada will take place on the second Tuesday of June, while all general elections will take place in November. Newly elected candidates will be sworn into office in January of the following year.

Gov. Steve Sisolak signed AB50 into law June 12, less than two weeks after Las Vegas and North Las Vegas held what would be their last regular municipal springtime elections. Those two cities, along with Henderson and Boulder City, have traditionally held their primary municipal elections in April and their general municipal elections in June of odd-numbered years.

With the exception of Boulder City, voter turnout in all of those cities has historically lagged behind turnout in Nevada cities that have elections in the fall, such as Reno and Carson City.

For example, just over 11% of registered voters came out to the polls in Las Vegas for the municipal election this month. In North Las Vegas, 10.4% of registered voters participated in the June municipal election.

By comparison, 48.4% of registered voters in Reno cast ballots for the city’s 2014 mayoral race and 63% voted in the city’s 2018 mayoral election. Nearly 57% of registered voters turned out for the 2014 race for Carson City district attorney, and close to 71% cast ballots for Carson City sheriff in 2018.

The primary goals of AB 50 are to boost voter turnout statewide and reduce election costs. Moving forward, cities will no longer have to pay a fee to their county for regular municipal elections.

For example, Las Vegas typically pays Clark County at least $250,000 per election, city spokesperson Jace Radke said.

“By joining with the fall election cycle, the city will no longer pay anything for elections, unless there is a ballot question in the city. If there is a ballot question, the city would have to pay any additional printing costs,” Radke wrote in an email.

Here’s a look at other major impacts the new law will have on Southern Nevada’s four largest municipalities.

Las Vegas

In all affected Nevada cities, the new election schedule means that elected officials who were just voted in or are currently in office will see their current terms extended by one year. City council members in Las Vegas are no exception.

Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Ward 5 Councilman Cedric Crear, who both beat primary contenders in April, as well as incoming Ward 3 Councilwoman Olivia Diaz and incoming Ward 1 Councilman Brian Knudsen, will all serve five years. The next races for those mayoral and council seats are scheduled for 2024.

In Wards 2, 4 and 6, the next municipal elections will take place in 2022. As a result, Ward 4 Councilman Stavros Anthony and Ward 6 Councilwoman Michele Fiore, who started their current terms in 2017, will serve five-year terms, too.

Incoming Ward 2 Councilwoman Victoria Seaman, who won her seat through a special election that coincided with the June general election, will serve a three-year term until 2022. Under the old election schedule, Seaman would have been up for re-election in 2021 instead.

Normal term lengths of four years will resume for mayor, councilors in Wards 1, 3 and 5 in 2024 and for Wards 2, 4 and 6 in 2022. 

Las Vegas supported AB 50 when the legislation was proposed. City Clerk LuAnn Holmes said her office hopes the measure will improve voter turnout in local races.

Henderson

Voter turnout in Henderson has typically been as low as in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas. In the 2017 general municipal election, just over 8% of registered voters showed up to the polls, while 7.5% of registered voters participated in the city’s 2013 general municipal election.

“Based on previous turnout in even-year elections, the city anticipates there will be an increase in the number of votes cast for municipal races in Henderson when compared to recent elections held in odd years, such as 2019,” Henderson Government Affairs Manager David Cherry wrote in an email.

Nonetheless, the city initially opposed AB 50 because members of its charter review committee had already considered and voted against moving elections to even-numbered years, Cherry said.

As in Las Vegas, Henderson city council members elected or re-elected in 2017 will serve one five-year term until 2022; that applies to Ward 3 Councilman John Marz and Mayor Debra March.

Those elected or re-elected in the April 2019 primary election — Ward 1 Councilwoman Michelle Romero, Ward 2 Councilman Dan Shaw and Ward 4 Councilman Dan Stewart — won’t be up for re-election until 2024.

North Las Vegas

In North Las Vegas, recently re-elected Ward 2 Councilwoman Pamela Goynes-Brown and Ward 4 Councilman Richard Cherchio will serve until 2024 under the new election schedule. Mayor John Lee, Ward 1 Councilman Isaac Barron and Ward 3 Councilman Scott Black will also each serve one five-year term ending in 2022.

North Las Vegas testified as neutral on AB 50 during the legislative session, said city Chief of Staff Delen Goldberg. Like Henderson, city officials had previously looked into moving municipal elections to the fall during even-numbered years but opted not to do so.

Some council members have expressed concern about the fact that local elections will now appear farther down on an increasingly crowded ballot, Goldberg said, which could lead to voter “drop-off.” Even so, the city supports any measure that could promote voting.

“That’s a cornerstone of America and everything our country stands for,” Goldberg said.

Boulder City

Boulder City was exempted from AB 50, as the city already approved an ordinance in October 2018 to move local elections to the county, state and federal schedule. Unlike in Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson, Boulder City’s elected officials will all serve shorter terms under the city’s new rules.

Because of its exemption, Boulder City will be the only community in the state to hold another municipal election during an odd-numbered year — 2021 — said City Clerk Lorene Krumm.

“From that point, we’ll go to even-numbered years,” Krumm said.

The city’s ordinance dictates that those elected this spring — Mayor-elect Kiernan McManus, incoming Councilman James Adams and incoming Councilwoman Claudia Bridges — will each serve one three-and-a-half year term. Their seats will be up for re-election in fall 2022, at which point normal four-year term limits will resume. Councilman Warren Harhay’s seat and a temporarily vacant seat previously held by McManus will be up again in 2021.

Although Boulder City sees much higher voter turnout than the rest of Clark County — nearly 49% of registered voters cast ballots in the general municipal election in June — the city decided to switch to even-year elections to maximize voter participation.

“We’re hoping that’ll boost it even more,” Krumm said.

Back to top

Share