Judge reviews candidate challenge
Carson District Judge Todd Russell will decide in the next few days whether Scott Ashjian’s name stays on the ballot as Tea Party candidate for U.S. Senate.
Ashjian’s candidacy was challenged by the Independent American Party, which argues he wasn’t a member of the Tea Party when he filed for office March 2.
Longtime IAP lawyer Joel Hansen said there is no dispute that Ashjian filed as a candidate that morning, but he didn’t change his registration in Clark County from Republican to Tea Party until the afternoon.
But Allen Lichtenstein, representing Ashjian, argued at the hearing Wednesday that making the change the same day is “substantial compliance,” the standard used by courts nationwide in deciding election law cases.
Hansen argued that under Nevada law, if a person “knowingly and willfully makes false statements in his declaration of candidacy, the name of that person must not appear on any ballot for which the person applied.
“This is not a matter of substantial compliance because the statute is clear,” Hansen told the court.
Ashjian, who runs a Las Vegas paving company, testified in the hearing that he filed as a candidate about noon in Carson City, then flew back to Las Vegas where he changed his voter registration form to Tea Party before the end of the day.
Hansen said Russell has no choice but to strictly enforce the law in this case and order Ashjian’s name taken off the ballot.
“You have to be a registered member of the political party you say you are when you file,” he said.
Lichtenstein said making the party change on the same day meets the standard to stay on the ballot.
“It’s about whether or not the objectives of the law are being met and also about whether or not anyone was being misled or defrauded,” he said.
He said in this case, no voters have been misled – especially since the ballots haven’t even been printed yet.
Russell asked the Secretary of State’s office what their position is on the issue: “Is it the secretary of state’s position it’s the day of filing or the time of filing?”
Elections Deputy Matt Griffin said the office looks at the day something is filed, not the time of day.
In addition, Lichtenstein told Russell he sees nothing in Nevada law that requires minor party candidates to be a member of the party to run for office.
“He doesn’t have to be a member of the Tea Party,” he said. “He doesn’t even have to be a voter.”
He said the statute setting the cut-off for changing party registration to run for office specifically doesn’t apply to minor parties.
“The only issue here is this technical sequence and you just heard from the Secretary of State that they don’t look at times of day,” he said.
Russell took the case, filed in the capital because it challenges the secretary of state’s office, under submission.
Ashjian is one of some 20 candidates running against Sen. Harry Reid. He said he doesn’t expect the Tea Party Express to endorse him when it arrives in Carson City today, but that he intends to run his campaign anyway.
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