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Knightly: Two commission races are being decided by a few voters

In case you are unaware, there is an election underway to select the next county commissioner in two districts, and send one to a runoff in a third.

There is also a U.S. Senate race, congressional race and a contentious state Assembly race.

I bring this up less than a week before the primaries because hardly anyone is taking advantage of early voting. Maybe it is because it is a presidential election year and everyone will come out in November, not realizing two of the three county commission races will be decided next week.

“The early vote totals in Pahrump are the worst I have seen,” said Nye County Clerk Sam Merlino, who is in her 16th year in the position.

Merlino said 1,709 people have voted through Saturday, a turnout she described as “very poor.” That is less than 7 percent of the county’s 25,522 active registered voters.

It seems to be a Nye County issue. I called a friend in Clark County government and those numbers are on pace for their projected turnout. Of course, they have various other races Nye County doesn’t have, including some judges and state Senate races.

Another problem is that two of the races that should draw the most local interest are closed races. As an editorial that ran in this newspaper April 15 explained, “Senate Bill 499, which faced no opposition in the upper house and passed the Assembly 27-15, affects races in which one of the two major political parties fails to field a candidate. Under previous law, if only two contenders from the same party filed for an office, they would skip the primary and face off in the general election. If there were three or more hopefuls, the top two in the primary would move on to November. But under SB499, if a race features only Democrats or Republicans, the primary winner goes on to the general to face no opposition or a third-party long shot.”

The three candidates running in Nye County Commission District I and the five candidates in District III are all Republicans, meaning only GOP voters can cast ballots.

With no Democrats or third-party candidates seeking those two seats, the candidate with the most votes wins without the majority of registered voters in the county having a voice.

I’m predicting in District III that someone will win with between 300 and 325 votes in this single party election. There are currently 11,897 active Republican voters in Nye County. The five commission districts would have approximately 2,380 GOP voters in each district (this isn’t exact science knowing some Republican voters may live in a different part of town, making the number higher or lower).

In 2014, incumbent Commissioner Butch Borasky won re-election in the primary with 421 votes in a four-candidate field. Commissioner Donna Cox probably has a harder road, in my opinion, than Borasky did with challenges from businessman Leo Blundo, Nye County Water District Governing Board Chairman Greg Dann, Pahrump residents Louie DeCanio and Antheny “AJ” Dodd. But Cox also has the incumbent advantage of name recognition from four years in the office.

No matter how it ends, the fact that Democrats, nonpartisans and independent voters don’t have a say is bothersome to me. What is more bothersome is those who do have a say are apparently choosing not to be heard.

There are three more days of early voting, then the primary on June 14, so there is still time.

Arnold M. Knightly is the editor of the Pahrump Valley Times

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