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Nevada Court Rules Against "Free-for-All" Special Election

3:04 PM, Jul 6, 2011 • By KATE HAVARD
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The Supreme Court in Nevada yesterday upheld a lower court’s decision allowing central party committees to nominate a single candidate in the upcoming special election, despite the Secretary of State’s decision that the election should be a “free-for-all.”

The special election is for the House seat representing Nevada's 2nd district, recently vacated by Congressman Dean Heller.

The conflict arose when the state’s vague special election laws, as interpreted by Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller, allowed anyone who filed the right paperwork to run for office on the ticket of a major party, regardless of primaries. It would be, as Miller stated, a “ballot royale.”

Miller’s decision was widely acknowledged to boost Democrats’ odds of winning in a district that has been consistently Republican since its creation in 1981. While the state’s Democratic party quickly united behind a candidate, State Treasurer Kate Marshall, the Republican field was split when Ret. Navy Commander Kirk Lippold refused to drop out of the race after the GOP nominated former state Sen. Mark Amodei.

Yet Secretary Miller, a Democrat, stated that his decision was based on democratic principles, not politics. At the time of his decision, he stated that “Our entire system is based on a concept of being inclusive, one that’s open to all citizens…This interpretation …. is as American as apple pie.”

The court, however, begged to differ. In a 6-1 majority opinion, the court stated that the “lack of specifics and absence of regulations” by Miller have “created statewide confusion.” The court added, “While this court might typically defer to a Secretary of State's interpretation of an ambiguous election statute, when the Secretary of State fails…to adopt regulations… such deference is inappropriate.”

Secretary Miller called the decision, “a well-reasoned opinion that allows my office to move forward with the important business of conducting a special election to fill the vacancy in the U.S. House of Representatives.” Voters will now decide whether to send Kate Marshall (D) or Mark Amodei (R) to Congress to represent the 2nd district of Nevada on September 13th.

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