Betrayed, robbed, disenfranchised.
What other words can I find to express my dismay and disappointment after U.S. District Judge Robert Jones declared unconstitutional the 1975 law granting Nevadans the right to cast our unique protest vote for “None of These Candidates.”
I’m also not happy about the dilly-dallying in this case.
In an election year in which ballots must be printed by Sept. 7 to reach military and overseas voters, deadlines are important.
The lawsuit was filed June 8 and assigned to U.S. District Judge Edward Reed, appointed by Democratic President Jimmy Carter. He rejected it June 11.
Jones, as chief judge, assigned it to himself July 3.
Jones, appointed by President George W. Bush in 2003, did not hear it until Aug. 22.
At that hearing, he said because “None” can’t win, those votes don’t count, so he would grant the injunction and order the “None” option removed from the ballot.
Voters can choose not to vote in a race; but if they do, the candidates don’t really know that it was a protest vote. “Undervotes,” as they are called, are not tallied. “None” votes are counted.
Sometimes the “None” votes are a slap in the face, and they’re meant to be.
The “None” vote is restricted to races that cover the entire state, whether they are state or federal races.
Jones, by removing “None” as an option, handed a victory to Republicans who fear that the “None” option might draw more votes away from Republican Mitt Romney than President Barack Obama.
Without “None,” the GOP hopes more voters would return to Romney.
But Jones didn’t bother to sign a written order, saying only that he would sign one by Sept. 7. His inaction was running the time out for appeal.
Was Jones deliberately letting time run out so it couldn’t get to the appellate court in time for a possible reversal?
The case drew the attention of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals because, in Thursday’s peevish sounding order, Jones noted that Judge Stephen Reinhardt contacted Jones requesting that he file a written injunction so the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals could take up the case.
An appellate judge telling a district judge to get moving isn’t routine, but then a presidential election is at stake. Reinhardt is another Carter appointee, and the 9th Circuit is notoriously liberal.
Thursday, Jones set dates for oral arguments on whether his injunction should be stayed. He allowed lawyers until Sept. 7 to brief the issue and set the hearing for Sept. 14, a week after ballots need to be printed and ready for mailing Sept 22.
Former Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury, one of 11 people who filed the lawsuit, which is being financed by the Republican National Committee, said the law should be changed so that “None” can actually win. If “None” wins, he said, there should be a new election or the office should be filled by appointment.
The 2013 Legislature is not about to pass such a law. Nor should it. It would create expensive and unnecessary elections or appointments.
But the delay in getting Jones’ ruling out doesn’t seem right.
Secretary of State Ross Miller, a Democrat, filed a notice of appeal two days after Jones verbally struck “None” from the ballot. Jones now calls that appeal “premature.”
It wouldn’t have been premature if Jones had prepared a written order soon after the Aug. 22 hearing without being told to do so by an appeals judge.
And why did Jones wait more than two months to hold a hearing on a case that involved clear deadlines written into state law?
That old maxim “Justice delayed is justice denied” shouldn’t play a role in a presidential race.
Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call her at (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/Morrison