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Question 3 backers promote ranked-choice voting with major out-of-state money

Sean Golonka
Sean Golonka
Election 2022
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Nevada Voters First, the in-state group backing Ballot Question 3, proposing open primaries and ranked-choice voting, received more than $17 million from political donors in the third quarter — more than any Nevada candidate for state or federal office raised during the same period.

Almost all of that money has come from out-of-state donors, led by a $5 million contribution from Katherine Gehl, a Chicago-based businesswoman who founded the Institute for Political Innovation and pioneered the concept of Final-Five Voting, the model for Nevada’s Question 3.

The group also received major contributions from: 

  • Kenneth Griffin ($3 million), a Florida-based billionaire hedge fund manager and founder of Citadel, who has been among the most prolific GOP mega donors this cycle
  • Action Now Inc ($3 million), a Texas-based philanthropic group funded by billionaire couple John and Laura Arnold
  • Kathryn Murdoch ($2.5 million), a New York-based political activist and daughter-in-law of billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch
  • John Sobrato ($1 million), a California-based billionaire real estate developer

Wynn Resorts, the only Nevada-based entity to contribute to the group during the third quarter, gave $250,000. 

Nevada Voters First also raised $2.4 million over the first six months the year, including nearly $1.5 million from Gehl and her Final Five Fund, $250,000 apiece from the Nevada Association of Realtors and the Clark County Education Association (through a political action committee called Strategic Horizons), $25,000 from Station Casinos and an initial $20,000 from Wynn Resorts.

With significant financial backing, the fight over Question 3 has pitted powerful national interests against well-known Nevada politicians.

Top Nevada Democrats and Republicans, as well as the state Republican Party, have expressed opposition to the ideas of ranked-choice voting and open primaries. But strong outside support has given Nevada Voters First a chance to compete for attention on the Silver State’s crowded airwaves. As a point of comparison, the group raised $1.8 million more than Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s record-setting campaign fundraising haul from July through September.

In late September, the group reportedly spent more than $7 million on broadcast ads running through Election Day, according to political ad tracking firm AdImpact.

In one ad circulated by the group, a veteran identified as an “independent” voter calls for support of Question 3, so that Nevada’s large share of non-major party voters (37 percent of registered voters) can participate in the state’s primary elections, which are conducted by and limited to voters within the Democratic and Republican parties.

Protect Your Vote Nevada, a Democrat-linked political action committee opposed to Question 3, has raised nearly $1.6 million this year, including $300,000 in the third quarter, all from Nevada Alliance.

Recent polling shows divided opinions over the question. A Nevada Independent/OH Predictive Insights September poll of likely voters found 38 percent support and 42 percent opposition to the initiative, with one-fifth of respondents still unsure.

If a majority of voters approve Question 3 in this year’s general election, the initiative, which proposes a change to the Nevada Constitution, would need to be approved by a majority of voters again in 2024 before taking effect for the state’s 2026 elections.

To learn more about the open primaries and ranked-choice voting initiative, find The Nevada Independent’s Question 3 explainer here.

Editor’s Note: This story appears in Indy 2022, The Nevada Independent’s newsletter dedicated to comprehensive coverage of the 2022 election. Sign up for the newsletter here.

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