Nevada lawmakers met Thursday to address shortfalls in the state’s candidate residency laws that were exposed last year when a judge ruled a candidate for the Assembly didn’t live in the district he was running to represent.
Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, presented Assembly Bill 407 to members of the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee. Hickey is co-sponsoring the measure with Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-Las Vegas.
“Where we live, where we shop, where we worship, where our children go to school ... that’s very, very important in a representative democracy such as ours,” Hickey told committee members.
The bill aims to clarify that simply owning a residence in a district does not qualify someone to run for that district’s seat. The Assembly unanimously approved the measure last week.
Lawmakers promised this bill after a judge ruled Assemblyman Andrew Martin, D-Las Vegas, did not live in Assembly District 9. The judge said Martin owned a condominium in the district but actually lived elsewhere.
This bill would mandate that candidates live in the district they seek to represent.
“The spirit of the bill is to clarify, most importantly, that a person’s actual residence is what counts,” Hickey said. “Not only when they file for their candidacy, but when they’re actually elected and representing their district.”
He added that this isn’t an area one party has exploited more than the other, but that both parties have probably violated the intent of Nevada’s candidate residency laws at various times.
The ruling on Martin came the day before the election and after his Republican challenger hired a private investigator to prove Martin wasn’t living in the district. Voters still chose Martin on Election Day.
His challenger, Republican Kelly Hurst, did not contest the result of the election, largely because the losing party in such a case would be responsible for any applicable fees and he couldn’t afford it if he lost.
This bill would set a cap of about $5,000 for the losing party to pay in contesting an election, though the exact figure will likely be amended, Hickey said. The bill also bars district courts from making a ruling on a candidate’s residency after the fourth Friday of June in an election year.
Ultimately, both the Senate and Assembly have the authority under the state constitution to judge the qualifications of their own members, and they rule on contested elections within their respective bodies.