The November elections may be over, but many people still have a bad taste in their mouths when remembering how some politicians conducted themselves. The unrelenting barrage of negative campaign ads was bad enough, but we actually had two Democrats running for Assembly who didn’t even live in the districts in which they were running. Meghan Smith, running for Assembly District 34, and Jake Holder, running for District 10, were both declared ineligible by Clark County District Court because they failed residency requirements. However, this ruling wasn’t made until after the ballots had been printed. Under current laws, it would have been possible for one of them to receive the majority of votes, and even to have been seated in the Assembly, despite the fact that they were trying to cheat their way into a position of political power.
Can’t happen, you say? It already has! In the 2012 election, the courts ruled that Democrat Andrew Martin was ineligible to run for the Assembly District 9 seat because he didn’t legally reside there. Since his name was already on the ballot, and since it was a heavily Democrat district, he received 53 percent of the vote. According to NRS 293.182(5)(b) and NRS 293.184(1)(b) he should have been disqualified from being seated in the Assembly.
Here’s where it gets complicated. According to the state Constitution (Article 4, Section 6) each house of the Legislature “shall judge of the qualifications, elections and return of its own members.” The Democrats, who were in control of the Assembly, could have (and should have) declared the District 9 seat vacant because Martin was ineligible. Then the Clark County Commission would have appointed someone else of the same political party to fill the seat. Instead, they chose to ignore the statutes and seat Martin, who had previously served as Clark County Democratic Party Chair. To add insult to injury, they actually appointed him to the Temporary Credentials Committee, which decides who is eligible to be seated. It just goes to show you the contempt these politicians have, not only for the law, but for basic issues of right and wrong. By the way, after serving his term, Martin ran for state controller in the recent election – still supported by his party – but was defeated.
The same thing could have happened in 2014 if either Smith or Holder had received the majority of votes in their district. Once again it would have been up to the Assembly to decide whether to seat them or not, even though they had already been disqualified. When Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick was asked by reporters whether she would consider seating Smith if she won in her district, she refused to rule out the possibility. This has to stop!
A bill (AB407) was introduced in the 2013 Legislative session to correct this problem, but it was voted down in the Senate. I find it interesting that the bill specified penalties for people challenging an election without a good reason, but didn’t mention anything about penalties for the person who ran even though they were ineligible. Apparently, Legislators care more about keeping power in their own hands than they do about the integrity of their members.
We need a bill passed in the 2015 Legislature that not only clarifies the residency requirements, but makes it clear that when the courts declare someone ineligible, they should stay ineligible and not be appointed anyway by their political cronies. It should also impose a penalty for someone who runs for office under false pretenses. Nevada needs honest politicians, not carpetbaggers who move into a district just to use it as a stepping stone to political power.
Contact your legislators and tell them to fix this ridiculous flaw.
By Whose Authority?
For more information on my Commentary and to see some of the backup research, or if you wonder why I take the position I take, go to www.LyleBrennan.com.