(Chuck Muth) – As mentioned here in Nevada News & Views last Friday, former Nevada GOP executive director Dan Burdish, citing Nevada Revised Statutes, called on the Secretary of State’s office to “strike” U.S. Senate candidate Scott Ashjian from the November ballot, not because Ashjian didn’t gather enough signatures to appear as a candidate, but because his new party – the Tea Party of Nevada – failed to gather enough signatures by the June 11th deadline to qualify as a party for the November ballot.
The bottom line is this: If Scott Ashjian had opted to run as an “independent” candidate this November, all he’d have to do is collect the 250 signatures required by law. However, Ashjian didn’t want to appear as an “independent” candidate. He wanted to filch the “tea party” name and run as a candidate for a new third party.
And THAT’S when provisions in the law governing third parties, not provisions in the law governing independent candidates, kicked in….something you’d think the Secretary of State’s office, which is charged with enforcing the state’s election laws would know. But apparently that’s not true.
After Mr. Burdish filed his request, Matt Griffin, an apparatchik in the SoS office, categorically declaring in a newspaper interview that Mr. Burdish was wrong on his interpretation of the law without, you know, actually checking into the complaint to see if Mr. Burdish was, you know, correct.
To which Mr. Burdish has since responded.
Secretary of State
Nevada State Capitol Building
101 North Carson Street, Suite 3
Carson City, NV 89701
VIA FAX: 775-684-5725*
VIA email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Secretary Miller,
In an online article published June 11, 2010 by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Mr. Matt Griffin of your office suggested I might be confusing “apples and oranges with my complaint.”
Your office has allowed Mr. Jon Scott Ashjian access to the electoral process through NRS293.1715, Section 3.
3. The name of a candidate for partisan office for a minor political party other than a candidate for the office of President or Vice President of the United States must be placed on the ballot for the general election if the party has filed:
(a) A certificate of existence;
(b) A list of candidates for partisan office containing the name of the candidate pursuant to the provisions of NRS 293.1725 with the Secretary of State; and
(c) Not earlier than the first Monday in March preceding the general election and not later than 5 p.m. on the second Friday after the first Monday in March, a petition on behalf of the candidate with the Secretary of State containing not less than:
(1) Two hundred fifty signatures of registered voters if the candidate is to be nominated for a statewide office; or
(2) One hundred signatures of registered voters if the candidate is to be nominated for any office except a statewide office. A minor political party that places names of one or more candidates for partisan office on the ballot pursuant to this subsection may also place the names of one or more candidates for partisan office on the ballot pursuant to subsection 2.
The beginning of this Statute specifies “candidate” but goes on to clarify that the Minor Political Party may file a list of “candidates.” If you were to read Section 3(b) carefully it does not state candidate, it clearly states “candidates.” These two sections were both added to the NRS in 1999 by AB520. According to committee notes there seemed to be consensus on allowing newly formed parties to place their candidates names in nomination before they were required to submit the required petitions containing the signatures of 1% of the registered voters.
Chairwoman Giunchigliani recognized Richard Winger, member, Coalition for Free and Open Elections, who spoke in opposition to A.B. 520. He stated court cases in New Jersey, Ohio, and Rhode Island had been overturned due to early deadlines or petitions being ruled unconstitutional for violation of the 1st and the 14th amendments of the United States Constitution. He proposed three methods for solving problems with deadlines and handed committee members a copy of the proposed amendments (Exhibit M). The first option would be to provide an earlier deadline for already “established” minor political parties in order to submit its list of candidates and he recommended the same June date be kept for “new” qualifying of minor parties. The second option would be to move the candidate list deadline from June to May for all minor political parties. He stressed a need for newly formed minor parties petition deadline to be left in early July. The newly formed minor party would submit the candidate lists before petitions. The third option would be to move the Democratic and Republican deadline from May to June.
If the Legislature had wanted to allow ballot access willy-nilly to anyone without the 1% threshold required for Minor Political Parties they could have done this much easier by allowing them to register a party name when they filed as an Independent candidate under NRS293.200. They didn’t do so and as the testimony above states they did not intend to allow someone to run as a Minor Political Party candidate without meeting all Legislatively mandated requirements.
NRS293.1725, Section 1(c) was also amended by the same bill. The language is quite clear:
(c) Whose candidates are entitled to appear on the ballot pursuant to subsection 3 of NRS 293.1715, must file with the Secretary of State a list of its candidates for partisan office not earlier than the first Monday in March preceding the election nor later than 5 p.m. on the second Friday after the first Monday in March. The list must be signed by the person so authorized in the certificate of existence of the minor political party before a notary public or other person authorized to take acknowledgments. The Secretary of State shall strike from the list each candidate who is not entitled to appear on the ballot pursuant to subsection 3 of NRS 293.1715 if the minor political party is not entitled to place candidates on the ballot pursuant to subsection 2 of NRS 293.1715. The list may be amended not later than 5 p.m. on the second Friday after the first Monday in March.
Mr. Griffin’s opinion seems to subvert the will of the Legislature and the Minor Political Parties that have abided by the law. Under his interpretation of the law it is not inconceivable for someone to start a Minor Political Party and gain ballot access with 100 signatures. Committee meetings and Statutes are quite clear that the 1% threshold must be adhered to.
I find it hard to believe that the office that is constitutionally mandated to uphold Nevada’s election laws would so quickly dismiss an inquiry without at least taking the time to fully research and investigate not only the letter of the law, but legislative intent as well.
I ask that you refer my inquiry to someone else in your office not quite so disposed to rash judgments and who will issue a reasoned, researched opinion in this matter before jumping to a reactionary conclusion for the media.
Daniel C. Burdish