Special election

Carson City District Judge James Todd Russell on Thursday overruled Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller's plan to conduct a free-for-all special election to fill Nevada's 2nd Congressional District seat.

The Northern Nevada seat is empty following Dean Heller's appointment to replace Sen. John Ensign, who resigned.

Mr. Miller had in essence sidestepped the leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties, declaring virtually anyone from each major party could be on the Sept. 13 ballot.

Instead, Judge Russell now gives the major political parties until June 30 to nominate just one candidate each.

In a practical sense, Mr. Miller's initial decision was seen as harming the chances of Republicans to hold the seat -- which has been in GOP hands since its creation -- despite the large lead Republicans enjoy in voter registration.

The form of the election should be determined not by who's most likely to win, but by the law.

Nevada precedent is on the side of letting the leaders of each party designate a single nominee -- that's the way it was done in the special election to replace Sen. Patrick McCarran when he died in office in 1954. And taken together, the two related statutes that govern special and regular elections require the parties to nominate candidates for the ballot. Had lawmakers favored a free-for-all, they could have simply said so in the legislation.

Judge Russell's reasoning is sound, here.