Teachers’ association wants ruling on room-tax petition | NevadaAppeal.com

Teachers’ association wants ruling on room-tax petition

The teachers’ union has filed suit in Carson District Court challenging a new secretary of state’s regulation their complaint says would unfairly and illegally invalidate thousands of petition signatures.

According to the Nevada State Education Association, a ruling on the issue is important because the group plans to begin circulating a petition for the 2010 ballot that would increase the room tax in certain counties and dedicate the money to public schools.

The regulation issued last December centers on those petition signers who are registered voters but have moved from one address to another within their county. That means the address they put on the petition ” which must be their actual current address ” won’t match the address on their registration card. The teachers, in a brief by Todd Bice, argue county clerks have treated that as a non-issue in the past as long as the voter was still a valid resident of the county.

But the new regulation requires clerks to hold those names when the addresses don’t match, notify the voter and require they prove they are still a valid county resident before their signature can be counted.

Bice argues that while clerks can refer to the address in determining the validity of an initiative or referendum petition signature, “nothing in Nevada law provides that a voter’s petition signature is invalid simply because the address of the voter set forth on the petition … differs from his address of record with the county clerk.”

He argued that requirement will be nearly impossible to meet under the tight time constraints clerks face to determine whether a petition has collected enough signatures in each county. They have only five days for their initial review of the signatures and nine days for a complete verification process.

So instead of actually notifying the voter so he or she can prove they are a county resident, he argued, the clerks will have to post the names of those being challenged on a Web site, “or in some other manner that’s unlikely to give actual, timely notice of the deficiency to the voters affected.”

“The result of the regulation will be to invalidate thousands of voter signatures on the petition documents,” the complaint states, predicting that upwards of 10 percent would be disqualified.

The teachers’ union suit asks that the judge rule the regulation violates NSEA’s rights by making it much more difficult to get a petition on the ballot than the law requires, that it exceeds statutory authority, is arbitrary and capricious and wasn’t adopted in compliance with the rules for imposing new regulations.

As of Tuesday, no hearing had been set on the matter.

Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.