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Effort to recall Nevada state senators reaches high court

CARSON CITY — Nearly two years after it began, the push to recall a pair of Democratic state senators crept forward Monday as attorneys argued before the Nevada Supreme Court.

The Republican-backed effort to recall both Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson, and Nicole Cannizzaro, D-Las Vegas, started in August 2017.

Both are currently serving in the Legislature.

At the time, organizers collected and submitted about 14,000 signatures in support of recalling each candidate, enough to warrant a set of special elections, election officials decided based on a review of a 5 percent sample count.

In response, Democrats sued, arguing that more than 2,000 people had since signed forms asking to be removed from the recall petitions for various reasons. A Clark County judge ruled that the signature withdrawal requests were valid, then ordered a full review of the petitions.

After the full review, an April decision deemed that even without the approved signature withdrawals, the recall should have failed because there weren’t enough valid signatures in the first place. Recall backers then appealed the decision to the state’s highest court.

In the hearing Monday, attorneys for both sides sparred over the constitutionality of allowing people who initially signed recall petitions to have their signatures removed.

Marc Elias, attorney for the senators in question, also questioned the validity of the appeal itself, saying that it would be an “absurd result” if the recalls were to move forward now, given that their failure was ultimately based on a full review of the initial signatures.

Flanked by several fellow Democratic senators, Woodhouse and Cannizzaro sat side by side as they took in the arguments from the front row of the courtroom gallery.

Mark Wall, an attorney representing the recall backers, argued that once the initial signatures had been submitted and verified using the sample count, a judge never should have ordered the full count.

Wall also said that allowing people to withdraw their signatures after deadline “allows the target after the game is over to keep playing.”

The argument drew a sharp retort from Justice Elissa Cadish, who said that the full review “allowed us to discover that there weren’t sufficient signatures.”

Justice James Hardesty also questioned Wall’s logic.

“If we were to agree to your point, we would be sanctioning a recall that did not meet the statutory or constitutional requirements,” Hardesty said.

The court did not make a ruling Monday.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at clcohhead@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

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