More Problems With Ballot Petitions

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The legality of an initiative petition to raise the minimum wage in Nevada by $1 is in doubt - and there are questions about three other initiatives to amend the Nevada Constitution, according to the secretary of state's office.

Renee Parker, chief deputy secretary of state, has asked Attorney General Brian Sandoval for legal advice and has suggested a lawsuit be filed to clear up confusion over signature requirements for the minimum-wage petition.

Parker said there are 13,994 signatures in doubt on the petition to boost the minimum wage to $6.15 an hour. If those signatures were declared invalid, the petition would fall 2,419 signatures short of qualifying for the November ballot.

Parker, in her letter Tuesday to the attorney general, said Clark County Voter Registrar Larry Lomax discovered a potential procedural flaw in the minimum wage petitions circulated in southern Nevada.

Some of the petitions lacked an affidavit from a petition signer, attesting that the signatures on the petition were genuine.

It's a confusing point of law. Petition gatherers sign an affidavit that says the gatherer witnessed the signatures and believes them to be valid. Lomax said the law also asks that one of the people who signed the petition do the same thing.

Lomax said he also found the problem in initiatives involving the legalization of marijuana, frivolous lawsuits and insurance rate reductions, but is unsure whether those proposals are in jeopardy of not qualifying.

Gail Tuzzolo, a spokeswoman for the minimum wage initiative, said the group's signature-gatherers followed instructions in Nevada laws and from the secretary of state. She added the same methods were used for two initiatives that aim to reduce insurance rates and cut back on frivolous lawsuits.

In addition to the two insurance initiatives, another petition that would allow adults to legally purchase up to one ounce of marijuana is scheduled to be verified by Friday.

Two initiatives already have qualified for the ballot. One would require the Legislature to pass the education budget before other budgets. The other would require the state to fund education at or above the national average by 2012.

Sandoval spokesman Tom Sargent said Wednesday a response to the secretary of state's letter could be ready by the end of the week.