Extra, extra, read all about it: The 2020 election cycle is already underway. Presidential candidates seem to be announcing all the time, and we seem to be averaging a candidate visit to Nevada every week.
Yet while we’re all obsessing over all things 2020, there’s one little thing worth remembering: We also have elections this year.
Even if you can’t keep track of all the Democrats running for President, it’s worth knowing the folks running for city council.
As of last night, just 3,381 people have voted early in-person. Just to put this number in better context the City of Las Vegas has 311,331 active registered voters, while Henderson has 176,292 active registered voters, North Las Vegas has 61,907 active registered voters, and Boulder City has 10,430 active registered voters. While I’m sure vote-by-mail ballots will soon boost the turnout statistics, we’re probably still looking at only 2-4% voter turnout in the first weekend.
But wait, why are we talking about early voting turnout now? The election’s over… Isn’t it?
Yes, the 2018 election now feels very over and long in the past. However, Nevada still allows for Las Vegas, Henderson, North Las Vegas, and Boulder City to hold city council elections in odd-numbered years. Even as Mesquite and the Cities of Reno and Sparks have shifted their respective election calendars to coincide with those for federal, state, and county offices, the state’s three most populous cities continue to ask voters to fill their city councils when they’re probably not paying attention.
Yes, they matter.
I can already hear it now: There are reasons why voters don’t pay attention. As we just noted, Clark County’s municipal elections feel very “off-off-off year” due to them being held in April and June in odd-numbered years. And really, who cares about folks arguing over potholes and apartment zoning when we have an entire democracy to save?
Yet as the old saying goes, saving democracy starts at home. Do you want to know why a serial predator can possibly slide his way back into elected office? Would you like to know why an ICE contracted detention center is located right here in Henderson? Have you ever just wondered what the hell is going on in North Las Vegas?
Here’s a helpful hint: These city council members (and the consultants who help direct their political careers) have become accustomed to very low turnout in these “off-off-off year elections”. They typically plan for not-so-bad turnout in the Sun Cities (master-planned, age-restricted communities), and for miniscule turnout nearly everywhere else. As long as hardly anyone is watching, does any of it really matter?
We have another 11 months before the caucus, but this election is happening right now.
Yes, I know Bernie Sanders just made his big Silver State return. I know Kirsten Gillibrand will be here later this week, followed by Beto O’Rourke. I know the presidential caucus pre-game is already generating enthusiasm and excitement, and you can count on us to continue covering caucus-mania as the field continues to develop.
But in the meantime we need to keep in mind the election that’s already underway, the issues that are currently playing out, and that the government that’s actually closest to us. After all who’s responsible for filling the potholes, making the rules on urban and suburban development, ensuring proper water supply and water quality, and providing for communities’ safety?
Whether you care most about climate change, police accountability, establishing good government practices, or reining in abuses of power, there are plenty of reasons to care about this election… As in, this election that’s happening right under our noses right now. Early voting is already underway, so you can go ahead and vote today.