The Confusion Surrounding Nevada’s Many Ballot Questions

With sample ballots getting delivered and early voting just around the corner, Nevada’s six ballot questions are one step closer to their public vote in November, but are they easy to understand for voters? Report by Tanner Barrett and Kacee Johnson with data visualization by Maggie Schmutz & Brooke Ruhl.



The Vote Yes on 1 campaign has been particularly prevalent around Reno. Yes on 1 posters are on display here on the corner of South Virginia Street and Kietzke Lane.  Photo by Kacee Johnson


Not Knowing Anything About Ballot Questions


Condensed into short descriptions that aren’t always clear, ballot questions have received criticism in the past for being too confusing, but voters’ exposure to them prior to election day may make all the difference.


Voters across Reno when asked their thoughts on any of the six statewide questions were reluctant to speak about them, citing they had yet to do their research or were uncomfortable speaking about their politics, but those who did respond offered a glimpse into the minds of voters.


“That’s the hard part — finding the time and the information on who and what I can vote for,” said Reese Donnelly, a Nevada registered voter. “I don’t actually know anything about the ballot questions.”


Marsy’s Law has recently received some coverage about the money spent from those in favor. Data Visualization by Maggie Schmutz.


What questions do stand out to voters?


Whether it was the numerous “Yes on 1” posters clustered around Reno, or an abundance of “No On 3” advertisements through the mail pushing to avoid Nevada energy regulation, those were two issues voters often mentioned as their only exposure to the questions thus far.


However, question five was brought up by Mahalia Jaramillo, a former intern at the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.


Some see a Yes on 5 as intrusive, others as convenient. Data Visualization by Maggie Schmutz & Brooke Ruhl.


“I am super excited, personally, about Question Five — automatic voter registration,” Jaramillo said. “A lot of people don’t even know that your registration doesn’t update when people move. With Question Five, you could go to the DMV, and your voter registration gets updated with your change in address. It’s super easy, and you’re locked into your constitutional right rather than having to make that choice,” she said.


Many see existing taxes as unfair to women, but some fear removing these as a problem for state finances. Data Visualization by Maggie Schmutz & Brooke Ruhl.


Questions Two and Four lack much public exposure and were relatively unknown to many voters, but since they regard removing sales tax from certain products in the state, it is likely voters will back the questions for approval. Question Six Nevada energy requirements to achieve 50 percent renewable resources by 2030 was not on the mind’s of many voters either.


 Question 4 has mostly flown under the radar, amid more promotional activity for Questions 1 and 3. Data Visualization by Maggie Schmutz & Brooke Ruhl.


Potential impact of Voter Confusion


When asked whether or not voter confusion around ballot questions could have significant influence on the outcome of the measures, University of Nevada, Reno political science professor Robert Dickens didn’t rule it out.


“I think that has to do with the salience of the question,” he said.


Question 3 has gotten the most visibility in terms of advertisement and two visible opposing camps. Data Visualization by Maggie Schmutz & Brooke Ruhl.


With so much information for voters to consider at the ballot, it is the issues that make themselves stand out the most that can be the most confusing, and at the same time overshadow others, such as Washoe County’s single ballot question.


The question aims to add an additional property tax to pay for the cost of a flood project by the Truckee River Flood Management Authority, but has received little to no coverage at all this cycle.


 The hypothetical numbers on Question 6 have also confused voters. Data Visualization by Maggie Schmutz & Brooke Ruhl.


Voter confusion is unavoidable in any election, but with Election Day looming voters still have time to do the research needed to make better informed decisions.


To learn more about the ballot questions and more, head over to #NevadaVote’s Voter Guide.


Reporting by Tanner Barrett and Kacee Johnson with data visualization by Maggie Schmutz for the Reynolds Sandbox
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