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April 24, 2014

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Nevada judicial ballot reform measures trailing

Even if it's only to cast a vote for nobody, Nevadans made it clear Tuesday they still want to decide which judges sit on the bench in district courthouses and the state Supreme Court.

A ballot measure to appoint judges was headed to defeat Tuesday and another to create an appeals court was trailing. With about half the precincts counted, Nevadans were turning their nose up at all four statewide ballot measures.

Question 1 would have let the governor make judicial appointments from a trio of nominees offered by a bipartisan selection panel instead of having judges initially seek election in nonpartisan elections as is the case now. With about a half the precincts reporting, it was losing 58 percent to 42 percent.

Nevada is one of 22 states that choose judges in elections while 28 use some form of merit selection.

Retired U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was among those who supported the change as a way to reduce the role campaign contributions play in selecting district judges and supreme court justices.

Opponents said it assumed Nevada's voters are uninformed and that a select group of individuals were better qualified to make the choice.

In a unique ballot option, Nevadans can vote for "none of these candidates" in statewide elections.

Incumbent Supreme Court Justices James Hardesty and Ron Parraguirre both ran unopposed and easily won re-election. But in each race, about a fifth of the vote _ more than 100,000 voters each _ cast their ballots for "none of these candidates."

Under Question 1, the three judicial nominees would have been vetted by the Commission on Judicial Selection. The same panel has been making such recommendations for midterm vacancies since 1976. Appointed judges would be subject to a retention election and would have to pull 55 percent of the votes to remain.

Question 2 asked for Nevadans to create an appellate court for cases of lesser significance. Nevada is one of only 11 states without such a court. Now all appeals go to the state's highest court, which boasts the second highest caseload in the nation per justice at 320 per year, trailing only West Virginia. It was losing 53 percent to 47 percent with about half of the votes tallied.

Question 3, which was losing 67 percent to 33 percent, was aimed at speeding potential collections of taxes from sales on the Internet. Voters rejected a similar ballot measure in 2008.

The fourth measure proposing changes in state compensation to property owners in cases of eminent domain was losing 68 percent to 33 percent.

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