CARSON CITY — The Nevada Republican Party filed a lawsuit Thursday that challenges the rules Secretary of State Ross Miller set for the Sept. 13 special congressional election.
Attorney David O’Mara said Miller did not use the appropriate state law when he ruled Monday that any and all major party candidates who file will be placed on the ballot for the 2nd Congressional District election.
"This is a unique and new misinterpretation of Nevada’s election laws. Anyone who nominates themselves can run," he wrote in the lawsuit filed in Carson City District Court.
Instead Miller should have looked at other sections of election laws that provide "a mechanism" for naming candidates when there is no primary, he stated. These statutes provide that each major party’s "central committee" pick one candidate to run, according to O’Mara.
The case has been assigned to Judge James Todd Russell, a former chairman of the state Ethics Commission who has handled many election disputes in recent years.
No briefing schedule was announced.
Miller said he must have legal matters completed by July 15 so he can prepare and send out ballots to overseas military members by July 30.
During a Monday news conference, Miller said his examination of state laws found no specific provision on how major parties would select candidates for the special election.
If the Legislature had wanted the party hierarchy or central committees to pick their nominees, then they could have made that part of the law, Miller said.
Since they didn’t, he ruled that all major party candidates who file May 23-25 can appear on the ballot.
Republicans immediately howled about the decision since it could allow a Democrat to win the seat. No Democrat has won the 2nd Congressional District seat since its creation in 1982.
Republicans have a 40,000 active-voter advantage in the district that covers all of the state except for the heavily populated central regions of Clark County.
Allowing a free-for-all, or "ballot royale" election as Miller dubbed it, could help a Democrat win, especially if he or she faced a field of several Republicans.
The seat will become vacant Monday when Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., replaces John Ensign in the U.S. Senate.
The special election is the first conducted in Nevada’s 147-year history for a congressional seat.
In the lawsuit, O’Mara calls for the judge to block Miller from placing names of candidates on the ballot.
He even accuses Miller of "inserting his own language" into election laws as a way to justify his decision.
"We believe that Nevada’s election law and tradition clearly ensure major party central committees are the nominating body for their own candidates," said Mari Nakashima, a spokeswoman for the Republican Party. "Whether it is politically expedient or popular is not the issue, the Nevada Republican Party is willing to take the necessary steps to stand up for the rights of all Nevadans in the interest of protecting the integrity of our election process."
Ironically, Heller told the Review-Journal’s Washington Bureau earlier this week that he thought Miller’s position would be upheld by the courts.
Heller served 12 years as secretary of state and he said his rulings never were overturned.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3901.Lawsuit concerning congressional district 2
Request for injunction