The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and supporters of a failed proposal to ease the state's marijuana laws have filed a federal lawsuit that seeks to revive the measure in time for this year's general election.
Accompanying the lawsuit was an emergency motion for a court order that would force Secretary of State Dean Heller to place the initiative on the November ballot.
The motion says more than 66,000 registered voters signed petitions for the initiative, but officials barred the measure from the ballot "based on a raft of unreasonable, purposeless and unconstitutional restrictions."
When election officials finished deleting what they considered invalid signatures, the proposal fell short - by just 1,249 signatures - of the minimum 51,337 needed to qualify for the ballot.
Steve George, Heller's spokesman, said officials at the secretary of state's office needed more time to review the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, before commenting on it.
Joining the ACLU of Nevada in filing the action were the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana, the Marijuana Policy Project and several individual petition circulators and registered Nevada voters.
"What is paramount for us is the integrity of the process," said Gary Peck, executive director of the ACLU of Nevada. "We want to make sure that the rights of the voting public are properly respected and no one is unlawfully disenfranchised. In this case, we actually support the legalization of small amounts of marijuana."
The lawsuit challenges a "13 counties rule" that requires an initiative to have signatures from at least 10 percent of the number of voters who voted in the most recent general election in at least 13 of the state's 17 counties.
According to the document, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco recently struck down an Idaho restriction that mirrors Nevada's rule. Nevada is part of the 9th Circuit.
The suit also questions a rule requiring a registered voter to sign the petition and sign an affidavit verifying that others who signed the petition are registered voters.
Also questioned was the state's refusal to count the petition signatures of those who simultaneously signed voter registration applications.