CARSON CITY — Although a second lawsuit has been filed challenging the right of a Tea Party candidate to have his name on the general election ballot, election officials said Wednesday they already are receiving completed ballots back from service members in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Those returned ballots contain the names of all candidates, including Scott Ashjian, the Nevada Tea Party candidate for the U.S. Senate.
As it stands now, the Supreme Court has not even yet scheduled a date for a hearing in response to the first lawsuit challenging whether Ashjian’s name can appear on the Nov. 2 ballot.
Early voting for the election begins Oct. 16 and both Clark County Registrar Larry Lomax and Deputy Secretary of State for Elections Matt Griffin said it would be difficult, if not impossible to pull Ashjian’s name off those ballots even if the court quickly ruled against him.
Lomax and Griffin added that their reading of state law is that challenges to Ashjian’s candidacy should have been filed by June 15.
On Tuesday, Citizen Outreach, a group lead by conservative blogger and political consultant Chuck Muth, filed a challenge in district court in Carson City over Ashjian’s candidacy.
The Independent American Party filed a similar challenge early this year that was tossed out April 14 by District Judge James Todd Russell. Ashjian was accused of being a registered Republican when he filed for the U.S. Senate as a Tea Party candidate in March.
Conservatives have contended from the beginning that Ashjian and the Nevada Tea Party have not been part of the national Tea Party movement. Debbie Landis, a Reno resident who has organized Tea Party events in Nevada, joined in the IAP lawsuit against Ashjian.
There also has been speculation that Republicans want Ashjian’s name off the ballot because he could draw votes away from Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle and help Democratic incumbent Harry Reid.
The IAP appealed Russell’s decision to the state Supreme Court last month.
Lomax began sending out general election ballots in early August to service members and Nevada citizens who live in other countries. All ballots to people living in other counties and service members must be sent by Sept. 18.
Some service members have returned their ballots, he added. A 2009 state law allows them to vote by e-mail and permits election officers to send their ballots by e-mail. Congress also subsequently approved a national law permitting e-mail voting by service members.
“The secretary of state (Ross Miller) has made it a point to make sure to get ballots to them and get them back,” Griffin said. “If it anybody deserves to vote, then it is them (service members).”
Miller visited Nellis Air Force Base, other military facilities and talked with the National Guard leaders, according to Griffin. He was ensured that military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan have computer equipment and scanners available to facilitate voting by the American troops.
In the latest lawsuit, Muth and Citizen Outreach chief executive officer Dan Burdish contend that Ashjian should be disqualified because he did not collect more than 9,000 signatures, or signatures equivalent to 1 percent of the votes cast in the last House of Representatives’ races. They maintain that is the requirement Ashjian needed to meet.
Instead Ashjian collected 250 signatures.
Burdish said it is clear for his interpretation of the law that Ashjian should have collected at least 9,000 signatures. To allow candidates to appear on ballot by collecting only 250 signatures would lead only to “political mischief.” Ashjian should be permitted to run as an “independent,” not a Tea Party candidate, he contended.
If someone wanted to draw votes from the Democrats, Burdish said all they need to do in Nevada is collect 250 signatures and call themselves the candidate for the “Culinary Union” or the “Progressive Leadership Alliance” parties.
But Griffin said Ashjian needed to collect only 250 signatures. The 1 percent signature requirement applies to minor political parties that want to gain “ballot status” so they can run candidates in all political races, according to Griffin.
The IAP and the Libertarian Party have such ballot status in Nevada, but no other minor parties.
Griffin said every individual from minor parties without ballot status has followed the 250-signature requirement and his or her name appeared on the election ballot without legal challenges.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3900.