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Stories from the KUNR newsroom and regional partners related to the 2024 elections

Some Washoe County races could be decided before November

A man wearing a a collared shirt carries a box filled with ballots past a pickup truck in a parking garage.
Gustavo Sagrero
KUNR Public Radio
Staff at the Washoe County Registrar of Voters office in Reno, Nev., bring ballots from a vote center in the Red Rock area to be counted after polls closed on Nov. 8, 2022.

During Nevada’s June 11 primary election, voters will have to navigate a hodgepodge of rules about who can vote for which candidates.

Washoe County election officials have started sending mail ballots to voters in advance of next month’s primaries.

In most cases, voters will decide which candidates move onto the general election in November, when they’ll have the chance to elect the senators, members of Congress, and state legislators who will represent them in the coming term.

But College of Southern Nevada professor Sondra Cosgrove cautioned that the rules about participation are different, depending on the office in question.

“In Nevada, we have kind of a hodgepodge of rules that govern our primary,” she said.

For top-of-the-ticket races, Nevada primaries are closed – so voters must be registered with a political party to cast a ballot. But for local, nonpartisan contests, like city council or school board, any voter can participate.

What’s more, if a candidate in one of the open primary races gains a simple majority during the primary, they automatically win.

“You shouldn’t be able to say that statement, because ‘primary’ means you’re not holding an election, you’re just moving people forward,” Cosgrove said. “So that’s confusing.”

Cosgrove added that the chances of an early victory go up if there are three or fewer candidates in a given field.

According to a list of candidates published by the Washoe County Registrar of Voters, Wards 1 and 5 of the Sparks City Council fall into this category. So does District A on the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees.

Cosgrove said the outcome of those elections could be decided in June – although she suspects incumbent trustee Jeff Church’s controversial tenure on the board could be a liability.

“That’s going to be a contentious race, because you’ve got an incumbent that everybody knows of, and maybe has negative feelings towards,” she said.

When more people run for an office, they tend to split the vote, Cosgrove added. In that case, the top two candidates move onto the general election. But that’s not a hard-and-fast rule.

Sometimes, a standout candidate can rise above a crowded field.

That could be the case in Ward 5 of the Reno City Council, where just four candidates are in the running – including incumbent Devon Reese, who currently serves as the city’s at-large council member.

“You might get somebody that’s going to pull it out,” Cosgrove said of the race.

Reese isn’t able to run again for his current office, because that seat was eliminated by Reno’s recent redistricting process.

But he goes into the primary with a substantial lead in fundraising: According to Reese’s most recent campaign finance report, he had $154,427 in his coffers – dwarfing the $3,241 held by Sheila Browning-Peuchaud, his best-funded competitor.

Bert is KUNR’s senior correspondent. He covers stories that resonate across Nevada and the region, with a focus on environment, political extremism and Indigenous communities.
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