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Nevada Signature Crisis

This is a big black eye for the signature gathering business. A Nevada district judge, James Todd Russell, has disqualified three well-funded ballot initiatives because of problems with the affidavits signed by petition circulators. These were arguably the three biggest initiatives in the state. One initiative would divert casino taxes to education and other state issues. Another was the son of Prop 13 measure that would have required a two-thirds vote in the legislature to raise taxes. Backers included a former state treasurer and former controller.

What happened? In July 2007, the state legislature adopted new requirements for the affidavits that signature gatherers sign to verify that signatures are real. These new requirements, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal,  included a statement that the gatherer personally circulated the document, that the number of signatures were counted, and that each signer had an opportunity to read the text of the initiative.

However, Nevada Secretary of State Ross MIller never updated his web site, which lists the rules for such affidavits, to reflect these changes. It appears that signature gatherers relied on the web site and thus did not comply with the new law.

Here's what the judge had to say: "It is unfortunate here that someone didn't do there homework prior to the circulation of these initiatives, although I think the secretary of state could probably have done a better job in this particular case."

This won't be the end of the litigation, I suspect. There could be an appeal of this decision. If the backers of these initiatives lose, they could seek to get their money back, perhaps in the courts. Another question: do signature gatherers have to return any money they made in Nevada on these initiatives?