Minimum-wage, lawsuit petitions qualify for ballot

The Nevada Supreme Court voted unanimously Thursday to put minimum wage and "frivolous lawsuits" petitions on the November ballot.

The court agreed with Carson District Judge Bill Maddox that the signatures originally disqualified by Secretary of State Dean Heller should be counted. Heller disqualified those signatures because they didn't meet requirements that they be accompanied by an affidavit executed by someone who signed the document attesting that all the signers are registered voters.

Those rules were designed to satisfy both the Nevada state constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court. But Maddox said they put an impermissible burden on groups attempting to gather petition signatures and qualify for the ballot.

The Nevada Constitution was traditionally interpreted as requiring petition circulators who are registered voters to verify that the names on each petition are also registered voters. A 1999 Supreme Court ruling threw out the requirement that circulators be registered voters. But the constitution still required a registered Nevada voter to authenticate the petition signatures.

The secretary of state got around that problem by allowing one person to sign multiple petition books, vouching for the signatures on each, even though he or she didn't collect them, and to have the circulator sign separately as the person who collected the signatures.

The court ruled that system "does not tangibly advance the state's interests in ensuring the integrity and reliability of the initiative process ...."

Justices said the alternative of having both a circulator and a registered voter work as a team to collect signers was an unconstitutional burden under the Supreme Court's rulings.

The court therefore ruled the disqualified signatures should be counted - which puts both questions on the November ballot.

The first would mandate a $1-an-hour increase in the minimum wage, ensuring that every employee in the state makes at least $6.15 an hour. The second was pushed by the trial lawyer's association and essentially lifts limits on tort claim damages that can be awarded in malpractice cases.

Reach Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.


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