Bill requires Nevada candidate background checks
April 1, 2003
Although Richard Gardner had four criminal convictions, he managed to get his name onto Nevada’s 2002 ballot. The same year, David Parks, though he couldn’t prove he was a Nevada resident, filed to run against an incumbent Las Vegas assemblyman with the same name.
Assemblywoman Ellen Koivisto, D-Las Vegas, wants to fix such election weaknesses and is the prime sponsor of a bill to require background checks on candidates who file for office. The bill seeks more evidence from candidates that they live in the district where they seek office.
Koivisto has encountered both situations in past races. Gardner, her GOP opponent last year, pulled 34 percent of the vote despite his criminal past. In 1998, Republican Michael Plaisted ran against her and won 37 percent of the vote though he didn’t live in the district.
“I feel that these types of situations discourage voters and cheapen the whole process,” she said.
Koivisto and 15 other Assembly members are backing AB285, which would require preliminary background checks for all candidates to determine if they have criminal convictions. To deal with the residency question, Koivisto wants candidates who file to provide identification confirming where they live.
Gardner was making his third run for office when election officials discovered he had four convictions in California from the 1980s. He was not eligible to register to vote, much less run, because of his convictions for theft and sex crimes.
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Felons who haven’t had their civil rights restored aren’t eligible for public office in Nevada. Gardner maintained he never had lost his civil rights, but Clark County officials ultimately determined he was ineligible to run.