Two key ballot initiatives pushed by groups which opposed the tax increases approved by the 2003 Legislature failed Tuesday to get enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot.
But Secretary of State Dean Heller said one - the "Axe the Tax" petition - came close enough that he is ordering county clerks and registrars to verify every signature.
State law requires signatures totaling at least 10 percent of the total votes cast in the last general election to put a question on the ballot, in this case 51,337 signatures. It also requires 10 percent of the turnout in at least 13 of Nevada's 17 counties.
Heller said the Axe the Tax petition, which would repeal the tax increases passed by the 2003 legislature, received 49,207 valid signatures - 2,130 short.
George Harris of Nevadans for Sound Government, which organized both petition drives, protested saying they turned in more than 45,000 signatures in Clark County alone.
He said the "valid signatures" count was estimated from a 10 percent sample of those ballots.
"They're only giving us 35,000. If you do a 100 percent count in Clark, we're probably going to end up getting like 40,000," he said. "I promise you, we're going to court."
"We qualified," he said. "I know because we spent an extra $20,000 to verify the signatures before turning them in."
Harris also questioned the actions of clerks and other officials who did the count.
"I'm not a conspiracist but this just doesn't sound right."
Heller originally rejected the idea of a full count, saying the decision was not subjective and that neither petition met constitutional requirements. But late in the day, he backed down on Axe the Tax , saying, "Although the original total did not meet the 100 percent requirement, it does pass the 90 percent mark."
He said because of the certainty of legal action and the limited time left for county clerks to order ballots for the November vote, he is ordering a full count.
"As secretary of state, I cannot in good conscience risk further delay through the advent of court proceedings," he said.
He gave the clerks and county registrars 12 days to complete the full count of valid signatures.
But he didn't change his mind on the petition to bar public employees from public service. Not only did that petition miss the required total by 4,009 signatures with 47,328 valid signatures, it met the 10 percent requirement in just 11 counties - not 13 as required by Nevada's Constitution.
Neither petition qualified in Carson City, Douglas or Lyon counties.
Three petitions, however, have qualified for the 2004 general election ballot: Education First, Fund Education to the National Average and one to roll back insurance rates in Nevada.
Two others - Stop Frivolous Lawsuits and Raise the Minimum Wage - were put on the ballot by Carson District Judge Bill Maddox. But their final fate is undecided since Heller's office is appealing that ruling to the Nevada Supreme Court.
Contact Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.