Nevada anti-tax proposal fails to qualify for ballot
August 27, 2004
A petition to repeal a record $833 million Nevada tax increase has failed by 4,548 signatures to meet a minimum 51,337-signature requirement needed to qualify for the November ballot, Secretary of State Dean Heller said Friday.
An earlier statistical sampling showed the “Axe the Tax” petition failed by about 2,100 names, and at that point Heller ordered election officials in the state’s eight largest counties to check every signature.
The tax plan, a referendum petition, would have wiped out the tax package approved by state lawmakers in 2003 if approved by voters in November.
Heller said given the threat of litigation over the tax plan, he wanted the actual signature count because the signature total determined by statistical sampling was so close to the mandatory minimum.
George Harris of Nevadans for Sound Government, which sought the petition, said he’s going to court anyway because the process followed by election officials violates the law.
Harris said he’s filing a brief in a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals case dealing with a petition aimed at easing Nevada’s marijuana possession laws.
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“The bureaucrats don’t want the voters to have a voice in their government,” Harris said. “They disqualified thousands and thousands of signatures because they don’t want this thing on the ballot.”
Harris said the loss of more than 2,400 signatures between the initial estimate and the actual count is “mathematically impossible.”
Beyond that, he said election officials disregarded a law that says someone who registers to vote is deemed to be registered as soon as the paperwork is completed – and not when it’s turned in at a county clerk’s office.
He said many signatures were rejected because people registered to vote and signed the petition on the same day, but their registration forms didn’t get to a clerk’s office until the next day.
“Even if a registration form didn’t end up in the registrar’s office until the following day, you cannot quell the will of the people,” Harris added.
Besides the 9th Circuit case, a Carson City District Court hearing is scheduled Monday on efforts by a taxpayers group to block the tax repeal plan. The Nevada Taxpayers Association has asked the court to find the proposal unconstitutional.
Association Chairman Fred Gibson called the petition “a potential disaster waiting to happen” with unintended consequences that would shortchange Nevada residents.
If the tax plan made it onto the November ballot and won approval, Gov. Kenny Guinn – who backed higher taxes in 2003 – would have been forced to make budget cuts and possibly call the Legislature into special session to deal with budget issues resulting from the tax repeal.
“From the beginning, this was the wrong way to determine the state’s fiscal policies,” Guinn spokesman Greg Bortolin said of the anti-tax proposal.
Bortolin added the consequences of the initiative would be “disastrous” and the ability to repeal or amend the tax proposals should remain “in the hands of the public’s elected representatives, where it has always belonged.”
A poll done recently for the Las Vegas Review-Journal found enough support among Nevada voters to repeal the tax increase. The survey found 47 percent of 625 likely voters for tax repeal and 35 percent against, with 18 percent undecided. Washington, D.C.-based Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, which conducted the poll, found 39 percent in favor and 41 percent opposed when it asked the same question last March.
The telephone poll had a sampling error margin of 4 percentage points.