Nevada Supreme Court orders fix for Sanctuary Cities petition |

Nevada Supreme Court orders fix for Sanctuary Cities petition

The Nevada Supreme Court in Carson City shown May 8. A legal battle in Nevada over a proposed ballot initiative that seeks to ban so-called sanctuary cities is headed back to state court.
Scott Sonner/AP | AP

The Nevada Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed with Carson District Judge Todd Russell the Description of Effect on the initiative petition to prohibit Sanctuary Cities in Nevada was legally flawed.

In a 6-1 decision, the high court sent the petition back to district court with instructions to allow proponents of the proposed constitutional amendment to fix the 200-word description designed to tell voters in plain language what the initiative would do.

The issue facing proponents Prevent Sanctuary Cities is whether there’s time to fix the description and then collect the necessary 112,544 signatures needed to put it on the ballot. The deadline for submitting those signatures is June 19.

“The Description of Effect in this case simply repeated the initiative’s language,” the justices wrote. “Although the description at issue here describes the prohibitory effect of the initiative, the impact of that prohibition on existing policies and laws is not described.”

The order states therefore, the description fails to accurately inform voters of the consequences that would result if the measure passed.

“By failing to include such effects, the Description of Effect is deceptive and misleading.”

They also wrote the title of the petition — Prevent Sanctuary Cities Initiative — adds to the problem because it’s imprecise and doesn’t clearly describe what qualifies as a Sanctuary City.

However, the court overruled Russell on his conclusion the initiative contains more than one subject. He agreed with opponents it implicates a broad spectrum of subjects contained in the thousands of pages of federal immigration and other laws. They agreed with proponents of the constitutional amendment the initiative’s purpose is to prohibit Nevada and its local governments from enacting laws and policies that would “interfere or discourage cooperation with the enforcement of federal immigration laws.”

“It is clear that each of the initiative’s components are ‘functionally related’ and ‘germane’ to that purpose,” the order states.

Since Russell ruled the petition violated the single subject rule, the high court said he didn’t make a recommendation for resolving the problems with the Description of Effect.

“Thus, it did not make any findings regarding the initiative’s effect,” according to the order.

“Without factual findings regarding the initiative’s effect, (Prevent Sanctuary Cities) has been provided no guidance under which it could craft an amended Description of Effect.”

Therefore, the majority directed the district court to hold a hearing to provide that guidance.

Justice Michael Cherry agreed with his fellow justices on the Description of Effect. But he cast the lone dissent in the ruling, stating he agrees with Judge Russell the initiative violates the single subject requirement.

“The subject of the initiative as described by either party also encompasses a multitude of subjects that a voter may not expect including the laws and policies regarding schools, health care and welfare programs.”

To qualify for the ballot, proponents must get at least 112,544 signatures of registered Nevada voters. In addition, at least 28,136 signatures must be collected in each of the four petition districts — which are Nevada’s congressional districts.