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Election Forecast: Taking the Initiative Edition

While the top of the ticket races are getting all the national media attention, there’s far more that’s going down on our ballots. While I need a little more data and a little more time to get a better handle on the Congressional and Gubernatorial races, I’m ready to make a final call on the Nevada ballot initiatives.

So what’s passing with flying colors and what’s going down in flames? Here’s my take on where they all stand.

Question 1: “Marsy’s Law”
Photo by Andrew Davey

As we discussed two-and-a-half months ago, Question 1 will amend the Nevada Constitution to add a “crime victims’ bill of rights” should voters approve it. While similar “victims’ rights” laws have caused legal and logistical headaches in the states that have passed them, they remain popular among the voting public.

While the Yes on 1 campaign has amassed a vast bipartisan list of endorsers (including Dean Heller, Adam Laxalt, Jacky Rosen, and Steve Sisolak), the No on 1 campaign is mostly being powered by the ACLU and a few other progressive groups. Since such progressive groups have played a major role in boosting early voting turnout thus far, an upset may yet happen. However it’s far more likely that Question 1 passes by double digits, so I have it as Likely Passage.

Questions 2 and 4: The sales tax exemptions
Photo by Andrew Davey

This year Nevada has not one, but two sales tax exemptions on the ballot: Question 4 to exempt medical devices (such as wheelchairs and oxygen tanks), and Question 2 to exempt feminine hygiene products (such as tampons). Question 4 got on the ballot as a result of Republicans’ intraparty drama in 2015, while Question 2 got on the ballot as a result of several Democratic legislators and progressive groups mobilizing against the “pink tax” in 2017.

Ultimately, both initiatives have attracted virtually no organized opposition. As a result, I consider both to be Safe Passage.

Question 5: Automatic voter registration
Photo by Andrew Davey

Last month, we looked at how Question 5 can revolutionize the way Nevada registers voters and conducts elections. Long story short: Automatic voter registration (AVR) simplifies our abstruse registration process by tying it to a standard DMV appointment for a driver’s license or ID card (or anything else one must do there).

Like Questions 2 and 4, there’s no organized opposition to Question 5. However Republican legislators did unite against it when the initiative petition was presented to the Legislature in 2017, and some grassroots Republicans provided the official statement of opposition to Question 5 in the ballot guide this year, so the final result may be close if Republicans consolidate against it (just like Question 1 if Democrats consolidate against that). Unless that happens the “Yes” campaign has a very strong upper hand, so I rate this as Likely Passage.

Questions 3 and 6: The energy initiatives
https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:02-09-15_First_Solar_Desert_Sunlight_Solar_Farm_(15863210084).jpg
Photo provided by the U.S. Department of the Interior

And finally, we have the most hotly contested initiatives of the year… Or at least, one of them is. Thus far, only a handful of Republicans have organized any kind of opposition to Question 6, the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) initiative that has otherwise attracted bipartisan support over the prospect of Nevada developing and using more of our own renewable energy. For this reason, I’m rating Question 6 as Likely Passage and I’ll be surprised if we have to wait all night next Tuesday to get a call on this one. (Though considering how close the Question 1 gun safety initiative ended up being in 2016, I’m hesitant to declare this a done deal just yet.)

Then, there’s Question 3: It’s easily become the priciest ballot box fight that doesn’t involve a Congressional seat or Governor’s Mansion. We have multi-billion dollar corporations duking it out in the public sphere: Las Vegas Sands and Switch are mostly bankrolling the Yes on 3 campaign, while NV Energy is almost entirely bankrolling the No on 3 campaign.

Question 3 passed with 72% of the vote in 2016, yet the playing field has changed dramatically thanks to three key factors: Yes on 3 lost progressive support when its well-heeled backers reneged their support for a RPS bill in the Nevada Legislature last year, Yes on 3 has lost conservative support in the rurals due to uncertainty over how electric deregulation would affect their markets, and NV Energy seized the opening to reshape the race. I had never expected to do this, but I now have 3 as Leans Failure due to the Yes campaign bleeding so much support on the left and on the right that it may not matter what the final turnout landscape looks like.

Photo by Andrew Davey

So in summary, I expect 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 to pass, and for 3 to fail. Stay tuned in the next 48 hours, as I’ll have some final early voting analysis, a special surprise for you (just wait and see where we’ll be!), and a final election forecast for all those other top races we’ve been following.

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