Early voters cast ballots in the 2016 primary election.
It’s happened before – Carson City voters have elected candidates to office in the primary. And this year, it may happen again.
All races with one candidate or more than two candidates will be on the June 14, primary ballot, with early voting starting May 28. City assessor, district attorney, sheriff and treasurer will be finalized in the primary as only one candidate is running for each office.
In city races with more than two candidates, voters could either send the top two candidates to the November general election or elect a candidate with a majority vote.
That means, “If there’s one candidate who receives over 50 percent (of the vote), then they would be declared the nominee in the primary,” city Clerk-Recorder Aubrey Rowlatt said in an interview with the Appeal. “If no candidates receive 50 (percent) or more (of the vote), then the top two go to the general.”
This year that state law carries weight for the Carson City School Trustee District 1, Clerk-Recorder, and Board of Supervisors Ward 3 campaigns – especially the latter two. There are three candidates running for clerk-recorder and supervisor. Though none have the advantage of being incumbents, if voters identify a favorite, there are fewer candidates to split the vote. That makes it easier for one candidate to potentially win a majority in the primary.
In 2020, then-supervisor Lori Bagwell won 50.3 percent of the vote against four opponents in the mayor race, and Supervisor Lisa Schuette won 65 percent of the vote against two opponents. Both were elected without going to the general election.
Schuette said it was an honor to win a large margin of voters early on.
“I was grateful. I was relieved. And just really excited,” she told the Appeal. “It really gave me an opportunity to even spend more time diving into learning about the Master Plan, the Strategic Plan.”
She said that she enjoyed campaigning, but the six-month gap between her nomination and taking office gave her more time to study for the supervisor position. She learned about city finances and the roles of other city committees and commissions.
Rowlatt was also elected in the 2018 primary, though she was the only Clerk-Recorder candidate on the ticket at the time. She is not running for reelection.
“It was really strange for me, especially coming in not as an incumbent,” she said. “You may see somebody be elected that maybe you didn’t know about. … There are quite a few single local candidates that that could happen with (this year).”
With state laws allowing local candidates to win by a majority vote in the primary, registered voters who don’t cast ballots in the primary may miss out on the opportunity to vote for certain positions.
It certainly happened in 2020. Carson City saw under 40 percent voter turnout in the primary, but almost 80 percent for the general election — 3,400 additional voters registered between the two elections.
Rowlatt and Schuette agree that if a successful candidate wins in the primary election, they should get familiar with the office that they’ll be taking over.
“It’s easy to point out what’s wrong, but it’s more difficult to share ideas and share ways to help find solutions,” Schuette said. “Listen. Listen to the folks who you’re in contact with and your constituents.”
Rowlatt, who’s busy organizing the primaries, says that whoever takes the Clerk-Recorder position after her needs to be comfortable in a fast-paced, challenging office. And while her office does not actively try to improve voter turnout, it does advocate for voter awareness.
“I’d just like to get the voters interested so that they do come out and vote. It is an important election,” Rowlatt said.
She suspects that a combination of mail ballots and political polarization might bring more voters than usual to the polls in June.