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Signature-collection deadline disqualifies several proposed ballot initiatives

Riley Snyder
Riley Snyder
Naoka Foreman
Naoka Foreman
Carmen Landinger
Carmen Landinger
Carly Sauvageau
Carly Sauvageau
Michelle Rindels
Michelle Rindels
Rocio Hernandez
Rocio Hernandez
Jackie Valley
Jackie Valley
Election 2022
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Multiple proposed ballot initiatives met their demise Wednesday, the signature-gathering deadline for measures attempting to amend the Nevada Constitution.

Petitioners needed to submit signatures Wednesday to counties for verification. The magic number needed? 140,777 valid signatures, with 35,195 collected from each of the state’s four petition districts (which correspond to the state’s four congressional districts.)

The lone measure that appears to have qualified for the ballot is the open primaries and ranked choice voting initiative from the Nevada Voters First political action committee. With a favorable recent Nevada Supreme Court ruling, voters should expect to see this initiative on the ballot come November, pending final confirmation from election officials that signatures are valid and come from across the state.

Other initiatives related to education vouchers, redistricting and voter ID have been stopped dead in their tracks. 

Still other proposed ballot measures are at various stages in the process: two initiated by the Legislature are already guaranteed a spot on the November ballot, and others that propose changes to state law, not the Constitution, have a fall deadline for signatures.

Here’s a rundown of where things stand:

ON THE 2022 BALLOT

Ranked choice voting / open primaries

Name: Better Voting Nevada Initiative

Type: Initiative petition to amend the Nevada Constitution

Sponsor: Nevada Voters First

Notice of intent filed: Nov. 12, 2021

Status: Likely to appear on November ballot

Earlier this week, officials from Nevada Voters First — the group backing an initiative to establish open primaries and ranked choice voting —  said they had gathered 266,000 signatures, exceeding the roughly 140,000 signatures needed qualify the measure for the 2022 general election ballot. 

If approved by voters in 2022 and 2024, the ballot question would amend the state Constitution to require that most high-profile partisan elections in Nevada move to open primaries with a ranked choice voting system in place for the general election. Those races notably would exclude the presidential race, but include contests for U.S. Senate and House seats, statewide offices such as governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer and controller, as well as legislative roles.

Under language of the initiative, primary elections would be opened up to all voters regardless of political party, with the top five vote-getters advancing to the general election. Rather than just selecting their top choice, voters in the general election would mark their top candidates in their order of preference (ranking).

If a candidate wins an outright majority of votes (more than 50 percent), they would be elected to the office. If not, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated, with their “votes” redistributed based on the second preference of those individual ballots. The process would continue until the final two candidates, or when one candidate reached a majority.

The petition was filed by Las Vegas attorney Todd Bice, but has been largely bankrolled by Katherine M. Gehl, a philanthropist and former CEO of a Wisconsin-based high-tech food-manufacturing company who has advocated for the “Final-Five Voting” concept nationally and in other states.

High-profile Democrats including Gov. Steve Sisolak and most of the state’s congressional delegation have come out in opposition against the proposal.

More recently, a legal hurdle that hovered in the background has cleared the way for the measure to be on the November ballot.

The Nevada Supreme Court issued a 4-3 ruling Tuesday rejecting Democrats’ opposition to the measure, aligning with a lower court decision from January.

Justice Douglas Herndon, who wrote the majority opinion, said the initiative did not violate a rule requiring ballot measures to stick to a single subject as long as the provisions were “functionally related and germane to each other.” 

The court also rejected the opposition’s argument about “logrolling,” which refers to a tactic that involves including a less-popular, unrelated provision along with one considered more popular. Herndon wrote the plaintiffs’ argument did not persuade the justices that one of the provisions “is the primary, and thus, the more popular, change proposed.”

Equal Rights Amendment

Name: Question 1 (Senate Joint Resolution No. 8 of the 80th Session)

Type: Legislative resolution to amend the Nevada Constitution

Sponsor: Nevada Senate Democrats

Resolution introduced: May 30, 2019

Status: Will appear on November ballot

After passing in two consecutive legislative sessions, voters will get a chance to weigh in on adding the Equal Rights Amendment to the Nevada Constitution.

The measure, known as SJR8 in the Legislature, will appear as Question 1 on the November ballot. Voters will be asked if they want the state Constitution to include a “specific guarantee that equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by this State or any of its cities, counties, or other political subdivisions on account of race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, ancestry, or national origin.”

The proposed language largely mirrors the federal Equal Rights Amendment, a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that received renewed attention in the late 2010s, with several states — including Nevada — ratifying the amendment through state legislative action several decades after a 1982 ratification deadline. At least 25 other states have adopted state constitutional amendments mirroring the broad language of the ERA.

Sen. Pat Spearman (D-North Las Vegas), the measure’s most vocal sponsor in the Legislature, and the Nevada chapter of the National Organization for Women, gathered at the College of Southern Nevada’s North Las Vegas campus last week to discuss the amendment and highlight gender equality by screening the documentary Still Working 9 to 5.

Outside of the event, paintings showed women gathering together and holding hands, including one by Emir Yoshi that featured the words “Give our daughters the rights our grandmas deserved.” 

“When it comes to equality, make no mistake about it, we are not there yet,” said Spearman, who is also running for North Las Vegas mayor.

Minimum wage increase

Name: Question 2 (Assembly Joint Resolution No. 10 of the 80th Session)

Type: Legislative resolution to amend the Nevada Constitution

Sponsor: Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor

Resolution introduced: May 22, 2019

Status: Will appear on November ballot

Voters will weigh in on a ballot question raising the constitutional minimum wage to $12 per hour, regardless of whether the employee receives health benefits.

But with a law already in place that is gradually raising the wage each year to that rate, Nevadans will see little difference in wages based on whether the measure passes.

AJR10 was first introduced in 2019, then passed again by both the Assembly and Senate in 2021. 

Lawmakers in 2019 advanced both the resolution and a regular bill on the minimum wage in 2019, with the intent of taking the issue to the voters if the Legislature did not change state law to raise the rate. Lawmakers ended up passing the bill and enacting annual wage increases in state law, but the constitutional change is proceeding anyway.

A key difference: State law calls for a rate of $12 an hour by 2024 if an employee is not offered qualifying health benefits, or $11 an hour if they are. The constitutional amendment does not allow a lower rate based on health insurance offerings.

As it stands now, the Nevada Constitution requires minimum wage to be adjusted yearly depending on the cost of living or increase in federal minimum wage. It requires private employers to pay a minimum wage of $5.15 per hour with health care benefits and $6.15 without health care benefits. 

The proposed amendment would remove this yearly change and set the state’s minimum wage at $12 per hour, regardless of whether an employee receives health care benefits, starting on July 1, 2024. It also would give the Legislature the ability to increase the minimum wage and would never let the state’s minimum wage fall below the federal minimum wage.


FAILED TO QUALIFY

Star-rating voting

Name: Division Free Voting

Type: Initiative petition to amend the Nevada Constitution

Sponsor: Common Sense for Uniting Nevada PAC

Notice of intent filed: March 1, 2022

Status: Will not proceed this cycle

Backers of a proposed ballot question that would have overhauled Nevada’s election system and replaced it with a star-rating system on a scale from zero to seven, similar to Amazon reviews, won’t be submitting any signatures to state election officials by the petition deadline.

In an email, Common Sense for Uniting America founder Tedman Getschman — who filed the petition in Nevada — said the group will continue to boost awareness of “division free voting,” and would seek to grow its supporter base before again trying to qualify a ballot question.

“Although we will not be submitting signatures for this initiative, our foundation continues its nationwide civic wellness campaign to end our immoral practice of silencing up to half of our voters’ voices,” Getschman said in an email.

Redistricting commission

Name: Better Voting Nevada Initiative

Type: Initiative petition to amend the Nevada Constitution

Sponsor: Fair Maps Nevada

Notice of intent filed: Dec. 9, 2021

Status: Will not proceed this cycle

An effort to create an independent redistricting commission through ballot initiative won’t be on the 2022 ballot, but supporters say the effort isn’t going away just yet.

Sondra Cosgrove, a College of Southern Nevada professor and leader of Fair Maps Nevada, said Monday that the organization did not plan to turn in any signatures by the Wednesday deadline, and instead focused most of its efforts on helping qualify the ranked choice voting and open primary ballot initiative.

Cosgrove said reforming the state’s redistricting process — a once-a-decade procedure conducted most recently last year — was less urgent than pushing for more immediate changes to the state’s election system. Filed in December, the redistricting initiative would have taken the power of drawing legislative, congressional and other political district boundaries out of the hands of state lawmakers, and into the hands of a seven-member “Independent Redistricting Commission.”

Still, she said the measure would likely be revived in future election cycles — noting that the initiative used language that had been approved by a judge in a past court challenge.

Education savings accounts (school vouchers)

Name: Education Freedom Accounts

Type: Filed in two formats: Initiative petition to amend the Nevada Constitution, and initiative petition to propose a new statute or to amend an existing statute

Sponsor: Education Freedom PAC

Notice of intent filed: Jan. 27, 2022

Status: Proposed constitutional amendment will not proceed this cycle; proposed statutory amendment awaits court ruling and faces Nov. 23 deadline for signatures

A political action committee’s bid to create a voucher-style education program will not make it to the November ballot after the Nevada Supreme Court ruled in late June that it did not comply with rules barring new, unfunded mandates.

The journey began in late January when the PAC — Education Freedom for Nevada — filed both a statutory and constitutional initiative with the secretary of state’s office. The initiatives sought to revive education savings accounts that would allow parents to access state funds to pay for educational environments or services outside the public school system. 

A Carson City senior judge struck down both initiative attempts in April, saying they could create massive unfunded mandates.

In a 5-2 ruling related to the constitutional initiative, the Nevada Supreme Court sided with the lower court and determined the measure does not comply with constitutional requirements related to unfunded mandates. In other words, it could create a large budget hole for public education and no way to fill it.

Erin Phillips, chairwoman of the Education Freedom for Nevada PAC, said the high court’s decision could have “far reaching ramifications beyond this case.”

“Nevadans who believe that the constitution allows the people to ‘legislate by initiative’ should be concerned with the burden that the court has placed to fund future amendments and restrict the legislature's actions,” she said in a statement.

Phillips characterized the decision as a “temporary setback” and said the PAC is awaiting a court hearing for its statutory initiative case. She previously noted that the group has until November to gather the necessary signatures for the statutory initiative.

Voter ID

Name or subject: Photo ID requirement

Type: Initiative petition to amend the Nevada Constitution

Sponsor: Repair the Vote PAC

Notice of intent filed: Jan. 28, 2022

Status: Will not proceed this cycle

Backers of a proposed ballot question requiring ID to vote failed to submit enough signatures to qualify the measure for the 2022 ballot.

Repair the Vote, a political action committee led by former Nevada Republican Club President David Gibbs, collected thousands of signatures but was told in late April to rewrite their petition application because a judge sided with opponents who found it misleading. 

That meant the group had to start over and Gibbs said soon after that, he doubted they would have enough time to collect the 140,777 signatures needed to get their initiative on the ballot in November and so they pulled the operation.

“We haven't given up,” Gibbs said in an interview on Monday. “We're exploring other possibilities.”

Mail-in voting changes

Name or subject: Repeal of portions of AB321

Type: Referendum petition

Sponsor: Repair the Vote PAC

Notice of intent filed: Jan. 28, 2022

Status: Will not proceed this cycle

Sponsors of this measure, which asked voters to repeal portions of AB321 of the 2021 legislative session — provisions that enacted widespread mailing of ballots to active registered voters — failed to supply the needed signatures by a June 21 deadline.

The measure was backed by the same PAC, Repair the Vote, that worked on an unsuccessful voter ID proposal this cycle.

Tax measures

Name or subject: Sales and gaming tax increases

Type: Initiative petitions to propose a new statute or to amend an existing statute

Sponsor: Nevadans for Fair Gaming Taxes and Fund Our Schools (affiliated with the Clark County Education Association)

Introduced: Jan. 13, 2020 (gaming tax) and Jan. 15, 2020 (sales tax)

Status: Will not proceed this cycle

Measures proposed by the Clark County teachers union to significantly raise the sales and gaming tax to bring more than $1 billion per year for schools will not appear on the November ballot after a late June Supreme Court ruling.

Sponsors gathered hundreds of thousands of supportive voter signatures for their tax hike plan in 2020, which was put forth as a bargaining chip to force the hand of the Legislature to raise taxes on its own. Facing that pressure, the Legislature ultimately passed a new tax on the mining industry that brings in much less revenue for schools but satisfied union leaders, who canceled their plan to put the taxes on the ballot.

But Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske pushed back, arguing that she had a constitutional duty to honor the wishes of petition signers and put forth the taxes for a statewide vote. In a 4-3 ruling, the Supreme Court narrowly ruled against her interpretation, allowing backers to rescind their measures.


IN THE WORKS

Clark County School District breakup

Name: The Community School Districts Initiative

Type: Initiative petition to propose a new statute or to amend an existing statute

Sponsor: Community Schools Initiative PAC

Notice of intent filed: Jan. 11, 2022

Status: Still collecting signatures

A measure aimed at breaking up the Clark County School District is proceeding ahead of the November deadline for statutory initiative backers to turn in their signatures.

Dan Stewart, a Henderson city councilman who filed the ballot initiative last year, said the political action committee backing the measure had hired a signature-gathering firm and was focused on raising funds ahead of the signature-gathering deadline.

Stewart said the initiative, which would allow southern Nevada municipalities to opt out of the school district, had plenty of momentum.

“Most everyone thinks this is the time for this to happen,” he said.

Restricted abortion access

Name or subject: Parental notification for abortion

Type: Initiative petition to propose a new statute or amend an existing statute

Sponsor: Protect Our Girls PAC

Notice of intent filed: Feb. 22, 2022

Status: Still collecting signatures

The proposed “Protect our Girls'' statutory initiative, which calls for parental notification before a minor undergoes an abortion, has until Nov. 23 to collect the required number of signatures.

“​​We're collecting and they're coming in fast,” said Melissa Clement, executive director of Nevada Right to Life. 

The recent overturning of Roe v. Wade has left people in many states without access to abortion services. While Nevada law preserves the right to an abortion up to 24 weeks into a pregnancy, the nonprofit Nevada Right to Life is petitioning to impose stricter abortion regulations. 

Under the proposed measure, a physician who knowingly provides an abortion for a minor without parental notification would be charged with a misdemeanor penalty. 

The initiative makes exceptions to the notification requirement if a Nevada court authorizes the abortion, the minor is married, emancipated, already has borne a child or is in danger of a serious health hazard. 

Additionally, the group filed another initiative to allow for parents to review and access their child’s medical records as well as to “make and consent to all decisions regarding the physical and mental healthcare of the child.” That measure faces the same November deadline for signatures.

Clement explained that the word is just beginning to spread.

“This is a very grassroots organization and so we're working through parents and women's groups and churches that are interested in protecting kids,” Clement said.

Voter ID

Name: Initiative to restore integrity to state elections

Type: Initiative petition to propose a new statute or amend an existing statute

Sponsor: Restoring Integrity in State Elections PAC, or R.I.S.E. Nevada

Notice of intent filed: May 4, 2022

Status: Still collecting signatures

Another effort to require voters to show proof of identification at the polls — separate from the unsuccessful constitutional initiative — is still actively working toward qualifying the measure.

The group, Restoring Integrity in State Elections PAC, or R.I.S.E, is headed by insurance agency owner Raja Mourey, who took sixth place in a crowded, eight-way Republican primary for Senate District 8 in Las Vegas. 

“We have thousands of signatures in each congressional district,” Mourey said in an interview on Wednesday.

He said the group started collecting signatures for its ballot initiative in May and that it will keep working through the Nov. 23 deadline. 

However, the initiative is facing a lawsuit that could result in the measure being declared invalid. 

Legalizing prostitution

Name or subject: Decriminalizing sex work in Nevada

Type: Initiative petition to propose a new statute or to amend an existing statute

Sponsor: A Safer Nevada

Notice of intent filed: June 22, 2022

Status: Proposed statutory amendment faces Nov. 23 deadline for signatures

A Safer Nevada, a political action committee based in Las Vegas, wants to get a question on the 2024 ballot to legalize sex work. While sex work is permitted in Nevada, it is only legal in certain circumstances that push prostitution to brothels scattered in only certain counties in rural Nevada. 

The director of A Safer Nevada, Russell Greer, said in a phone interview that he framed the initiative similarly to the legalization of marijuana in Nevada. A city could request up to 50 licenses and use them to open brothels within their city. 

“I feel brothels are a necessity,” Greer said. 

Greer said his organization plans to start collecting signatures in August for the Nov. 23 deadline.

“I don’t want people out in this heat,” Greer said. 

However, he will be having a press conference at Las Vegas City Hall on July 21 along with workers from the industry to get A Safer Nevada’s message out.

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