Judge Extends Deadline for Citizen Ballot Initiatives

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A judge early Tuesday extended deadlines for ballot initiative petitioners who claimed harassment by public officials hampered their efforts to get enough signatures to qualify for the Nov. 2 ballot.

Clark County District Judge Kenneth Cory ordered Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax to accept signatures from the petitioners until July 20, and ordered several government agencies to not hinder their signature-gathering efforts.

The ruling early Tuesday favored Nevadans for Sound Government, seeking to bar full-time government workers from serving in the state's part-time Legislature; and proponents of an "Ax the Tax" petition to repeal last year's $833 million tax increase.

Cory rejected arguments that state law requires advance notice by groups trying to collect signatures at public locations such as government buildings, saying the word "advance" isn't in the statute.

"If the Legislature had intended to require advance notice, it would have said so," Cory said.

Advance notice and signed application requirements imposed on the groups created "an unconstitutional burden on the right to free speech and to circulate petitions for signatures," the judge added.

The deadline for the "Ax the Tax" petition was May 18. The petition on government employees in the Legislature faced a Tuesday deadline.

Lomax told the judge Saturday that if he granted a 60-day extension, ballots might not be ready by Nov. 2.

"We are stretched to the absolute limit," Lomax said.

But under questioning from Joel Hansen, attorney for Nevadans for Sound Government, Lomax told Cory it was possible that a measure could make it onto the ballot if petitions were turned in by July 20.

Janine Hansen, northern Nevada director of Nevadans for Sound Government and sister of Joel Hansen, was arrested on a trespassing charge last month when she refused to leave a Reno bus depot or sign a form she said would waive her constitutional right.

Christopher Hansen, Joel Hansen's brother, described confrontations at UNLV and several Department of Motor Vehicles offices where he said officials refused to let him collect signatures.

Petition leaders said they were about 6,500 signatures short of the required total for the tax referendum, and had more than 30,000 of the 51,134 signatures needed for the measure on government workers serving in the Legislature.