The Legislative Commission has approved a new campaign report form for candidates that includes the alternative affidavit sought by the Independent American Party.
A number of IAP candidates have, in the past, refused to sign the affidavit promising accurate reporting of campaign contributions and expenses "under penalty of perjury." Instead, they hand-wrote an "oath under God" on the forms.
Since that oath wasn't recognized as legally binding, those who did so were penalized by elections officials.
Scott Gilles, elections deputy to Secretary of State Ross Miller, said lawmakers agreed to the concept of an oath during the 2011 session.
"But we said if you're going to have this 'oath under God,' you're going to have to make it clear perjury penalties still apply," he said.
So the new form, approved Wednesday, offers both options: "I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct," or "I declare under an oath to God that the foregoing is true and correct."
To satisfy the legal issue, under the oath is the statement: "A declaration under an oath to God is subject to the same penalties as declaration under penalty of perjury."
"That's perfectly fine with me," said IAP Chairman John Wagner of Carson City. "Anybody who would lie under an oath to God deserves the same penalties everybody else does."
Janine Hansen, longtime IAP leader and candidate, was one of those penalized for refusing to sign the traditional affidavit. The elections division hit her with the maximum $5,000 fine for each of the three reports she filed in the 2006 election cycle.
"I still have that hanging over my head, and they've added attorneys' fees to it," she said.
Hansen said elected officials have the option of taking a secular oath or swearing in the name of God.
"This just extended it to those candidates who are running for office," she said. "It recognizes the religious liberty of those who would like to sign in the name of God."
In addition, the new contribution-and-spending form implements legal changes increasing the number of reports due from candidates from three plus an annual filing to five plus the annual filing. The added reports, he said, come right before the primary election and before the general election. Under the old system, the first report wasn't filed until after the primary, and the final after the general election, so voters didn't get a full picture of who was contributing to a candidate until after they voted.
Under the new system, he said, voters will have information current to within four days of each vote.
The other change, requested by Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, restores the requirement that candidates report the total amount of contributions received under $100. They still don't have to list every small contributor by name but will have to give the total amount. Any group, business or person contributing more than $100 must be listed by name.
Finally, the form includes two new expense categories for candidates. They must report specific contributions to legal defense funds registered with the state as well as any contributions they make to another campaign, political action committee or nonprofit organization.