Over the years, grassroots Nevada voters have put their weight behind initiative petition measures that reach across the political spectrum. In 2010, for the first time in 18 years, voters will not see a citizen-led initiative on their November ballots.
The deadline for turning in a petition with enough signatures to get an issue on the ballot was June 15. However, no group or individual even tried to turn in a citizen-led petition initiative, according to Secretary of State Ross Miller, something else that in unique to this election year.
Miller explained that the lack of initiatives was not because grassroots organizations didn’t try. In order to get a grassroots item on the ballot, petitioners must collect a certain percentage of signatures based on the number of registered voters in the previous general election.
“Because the turnout in the 2008 election was so high … there was a very high threshold for signatures,” Miller said.
About 97,000 signatures were required to get an issue on the ballot in Nevada and none of the petitions made the mark. Voters potentially could have seen questions about mining taxes, marijuana, charitable lotteries, immigration and open-air employment negotiations for state employees. But none of them gathered enough signatures for a statewide vote.
Backers of the mining petition drive that began five months ago say they had secured only about two-thirds of the signatures they needed by the June 15 deadline to place the measure on the November ballot. The proposal would have centered around raising taxes on Nevada mining companies in an effort to plug the state’s almost $3 billion budget deficit.
Other petitions aimed to legalize marijuana in Nevada and to make closed-door employee negotiations for state and municipal employees into open meetings.
This election year marks the second in a row when not one initiative petition qualified for the ballot, according to Secretary of State’s Office spokeswoman Pam duPre. Voters did approve a petition-generated question in 2008, she said, but the petition had been circulated and certified for the ballot in 2006.
All questions to amend the Nevada Constitution that qualify for the ballot as a result of an initiative petition must be approved by voters in two consecutive statewide general elections.
Four statewide questions will appear on the November ballot as a result of action by legislators in the 2009 session. Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 2, relating to the selection of judges and justices, will ask voters to amend the state constitution to “provide for the initial appointment by the Governor of justices and judges and any subsequent retention of those justices and judges by election.”
SJR 9 seeks to establish an intermediate appellate court. Assembly Joint Resolution 3 looks to change eminent domain laws and Assembly Bill 403 regards the state’s sales and use tax.
Other initiative petitions to amend the Nevada Revised Statutes remain in circulation, duPre said, but by law must first be certified later this year and then be presented to the 2011 Legislature. Depending on any action taken by the Legislature, the questions may then appear on the ballot in 2012.