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December 21, 2014

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250,000 to vote before campaign finance reports released

And now it's time for the biennial reminder of the absurdity of the state's campaign finance laws.

Secretary of State Ross Miller said today that at the current rate of early voting, more than 250,000 Nevadans will have cast their ballots before candidates contribution and expense reports are due Tuesday.

Nevada's campaign finance laws consistently rate at among the worst of national ranking by election watchdog groups.

But of all the problems with the law - no electronic filing required, contribution "limits" that allow companies to bundle tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for a candidate - there's no clearer shortcoming than the fact that voting begins before the deadline for reporting contributions and expenses.

Early voting started Saturday, Oct. 16 and ends Friday. The final deadline for contribution and expense reports is October 26, seven days before the election. And even that deadline is weak - the reports, if sent by mail, only need to be postmarked by that date.

(The state's campaign finance rules dictate state races, such as for governor or legislature. The U.S. Senate races are run under federal law.)

Efforts to reform the state's election laws have floundered in the Legislature.

Miller, the state's election chief, will propose a series of reforms next session, as he did in 2009. That bill was stuck in an Assembly committee until the final days of the session. It didn't pass out of the Senate because they said there was not enough time to review the law.

"It's an absolute shame that the campaign finance reports aren't required under state law to be released before early voting," Miller said. He said the law won't change "unless public gives us some help and calls the Legislature and let them know this is something that matters."

Miller released his campaign finance report earlier this month, before early voting starts.

He had raised $277,000 this year and spent $179,000.

Some legislators had complained that campaign reports were "too cumbersome to put together a report in the middle of an election cycle," Miller said. "I thought it was only appropriate to release mine before early voting starts."

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