Guidance on term limits sought

CARSON CITY -- Attorneys for the Legislature and secretary of state's office hope the Nevada Supreme Court makes it clear in its coming decision on term limits how replacements will be named if candidates for elected offices are ruled ineligible to serve.

Legislative attorney Kevin Powers said Monday he worries that district attorneys in counties with ineligible candidates will have conflicting views on how replacements should be named. To avoid lawsuits, Powers said the Supreme Court should spell out in each instance how replacements will be selected.

Justices potentially could make a decision in the next few weeks that would find 20 local and state officeholders are ineligible to serve additional terms. The pending ruling also potentially could block 13 legislators from serving again in 2009.

Adding to possible confusion: Disqualified candidates' names would remain on the ballot for the Aug. 12 primary. Ballots already have been printed and voting machines programmed for the primary, said Matt Griffin, deputy secretary of state.

If the Supreme Court rules as expected before the primary that certain candidates can't run, then votes cast for those candidates wouldn't be counted, Griffin said. If the court rules after the primary and an ineligible partisan candidate happens to win the race, then that candidate's political party would pick a replacement to run in the general election.

Griffin said justices might decide that signs should be displayed at polling places listing ineligible candidates for voters.

Such signs were posted in 2006 after the death of state Controller Kathy Augustine, whose name remained on the primary election ballots. The law on posting signs in polling places, however, generally applies in situations where candidates have died.

It's one remedy the Supreme Court could order, Griffin said.

Early voting begins July 26. Primary election ballots were mailed July 3 to Nevadans who requested absentee ballots.

The options under state law that Griffin and Legislative Counsel Brenda Erdoes see for naming replacements for ineligible candidates are:

• In cases where only one candidate is running for a nonpartisan office, such as university system Regent Thalia Dondero, who is seeking re-election, the replacement would be chosen by the governor. The ineligible candidate's name would not then appear on the general election ballot.

• In the case of multiple candidates seeking a nonpartisan office, such as school board, the two candidates who receive the next greatest number of votes would advance to the general election if an ineligible candidate earns the highest number of votes.

• In the case of several candidates seeking a partisan office, such as the Clark County Commission race involving incumbent Bruce Woodbury, who faces two challengers in the Republican primary, the replacement would be named by the county central committee for the party. But for that to happen, the state's high court must fail to make a ruling before the primary and the ineligible candidate must win the primary.

• In the case of a candidate who faces no challengers in the primary for a partisan office, such as Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, the party's county central committee picks a replacement for the general election.

• In the case of a legislative candidate such as Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, who faces Sharron Angle in a partisan primary, then the central committee for the county party would name a replacement should the ineligible candidate win the primary.

Review-Journal writer Scott Wyland contributed to this report. Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@ or 775-783-1760.


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