Special election

On Monday, Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller, a Democrat, opened the special 2nd Congressional District election to all comers, denying the major parties an opportunity to identify official nominees on the ballot.

The Sept. 13 vote will fill the seat of Republican Rep. Dean Heller, who was appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Republican John Ensign. Mr. Ensign stepped down Tuesday in the wake of an ethics scandal resulting from an extramarital affair.

The state Republican Party is expected to challenge Mr. Miller’s decision in court, as they should. While the law specifically bars a primary election as a means for the two major parties to select their candidates, it is a matter of interpretation as to whether they should be sent to the sidelines, forced to sanction anyone who decides to call himself a Republican or Democrat and collects the required signatures.

Of course, there’s nothing to stop either party from designating an “official” nominee and advising their members to vote only for the party’s designee, no matter how many names they see on the ballot. Whether they command enough discipline among their members for such instructions to succeed is not Mr. Miller’s concern.

At any rate, this issue is headed to the Nevada Supreme Court, which must settle the matter by July so Mr. Miller has enough time to mail out overseas ballots. The justices must be prepared to expedite this case once the first lawsuit has been officially filed.

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