Monday, September 16, 2013

Nevada: Attempt to recall State Senator over gun control issues faces high hurdles from state law

Gun rights supporters in Nevada are discussing a recall campaign against Democratic State Senator Justin Jones, over his support for a background check legislation that was then vetoed by the Republican Governor. This attempt hasn't seen much coverage (I just saw it for the first time today). Perhaps, this isn't a surprise -- Nevada's recall law is much more difficult than Colorado's. There is a good reason the state has never had a state-level recall.

On its face, Nevada's law seems to be easier than Colorado's and Wisconsin's requiring petitioners to gather signatures equal to 25% of turnout in the last election. They have 90 days to do it (in the other two states, they have 60 days). However, the 25% number is very different than others states -- thanks to a 1970 Amendment to the Constitution and a Nevada Supreme Court decision in 2010, the 25% has to be gathered from people who actually voted in the previous election for the position -- presumably, no new voters can sign, nor could anyone who sat out the election. As Richard Winger from Ballot Access News notes in the link, presumably, someone who moved out of the district or even out of the state can still sign.

This law alone is huge barrier.. Most states allow any registered voter in the district to sign. Wisconsin law allows any eligible voter to sign -- an even lower standard. Since voter turnout is always much lower than registered voters, this makes the recall attempt very tough.

But that is only part of the problem. Nevada also has a very different way of calculating the number of signatures required for a recall. It is not the 25% of turnout for the one office that is being contested (43,397 voted for the office -- which itself is higher than the number who voted in either the Giron or Morse seats) It instead requires that petitioners gather signatures equal to 25% of votes in the relevant geographic area. This total is always higher than the turnout for the targeted office. Some states have a similar requirement (using the turnout numbers in the district for the gubernatorial race). Presumably, that means that the undervote doesn't help the petitioners. What makes this figure even higher than in Colorado and other places is that Jones won office in 2012, a presidential election year. Therefore, the turnout in the area was at its highest (the Colorado seats were last up for election in 2010).

Any attempt to recall an official in Nevada is going to be harder than in many of the other states (like California, Wisconsin, Colorado, Arizona, Oregon). In the almost three years that I've been keeping track of the nationwide recalls, I've only seen one Nevada recall get on the ballot (Here's some that happened in the 1970s). This tough law may be the reason why.

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