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November 25, 2014

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State Supreme Court rejects recall petitions for two Boulder City Council members

Travis Chandler

Travis Chandler

Boulder City Councilwoman Linda Strickland

Boulder City Councilwoman Linda Strickland

CARSON CITY — The Nevada Supreme Court has tossed out recall petitions aimed at removing Boulder City Council members Linda Strickland and Travis Chandler.

The court ruled that the recall petition had to be signed by 25 percent of the voters who actually cast their ballots in the 2007 election in which the council members were elected.

Those seeking to oust Strickland and Travis argued that the recall petition required only 25 percent of registered voters.

The recall petitions were presented to the Secretary of State Ross Miller to force a recall election. But Miller and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto both said the petitions had to contain the signatures of 25 percent of those who actually voted in the 2007 election.

In May 2009, Senate Bill 156 passed unanimously in the state Senate and Assembly and clarified that any registered voter in the district the elected official represents may sign a recall petition.

But Miller said he was sticking with his original interpretation of the law for the Boulder City recall petition because it took place before the new law was enacted. The petitioners disagreed with the ruling and filed a lawsuit to overturn the decision.

District Judge Todd Russell issued a summary judgment allowing the recall to proceed.

The state Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision written by Justice Kristina Pickering, reversed Russell.

“While all registered voters can vote in a special recall election, only voters who voted at the relevant baseline election can qualify a recall petition and it takes 25 percent of them for a special election to be called,” the court’s ruling said.

Pickering said it may be more difficult to get the signatures of those who actually voted in the prior election.

But the decision said allowing a recall with 25 percent of all registered voters “would make a low-turnout election readily subject to a do-over at the behest of those who simply stayed home and didn’t bother to vote.”

“Allowing citizens who did not vote to call for a do-over arguably disenfranchises those voters who participated in selecting the official,” the court said.

Strickland argued this same point before the court in April.

Chandler said he was pleased with the reversal. “We felt confident, and that’s why we went ahead with an appeal,” Chandler said.

Proponents of the recall cited the Senate bill to back up their interpretation that the signature of any registered voter counted.

Matt Griffin, deputy of elections at the Secretary of State’s Office, said the court’s ruling has made the bill unenforceable.

“The court has spoken and we’ll enforce the decision of the (Nevada) Supreme Court,” he said.

It is unknown if the petitioners will file an appeal with the United States Supreme Court.

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