The Nevada attorney general's office has filed a motion asking the U.S. District Court in Las Vegas to dismiss a lawsuit that seeks to get a marijuana initiative petition on the November ballot.
The motion argues that a section of the Nevada Constitution defining signature requirements for an initiative petition is valid and an Idaho court decision against similar requirements in that state doesn't apply here.
U.S. District Judge James Mahan has issued a temporary order stopping Secretary of State Dean Heller from further action on the petition to let adults possess and use one ounce of marijuana. He'll hear oral arguments Friday.
In order to qualify for Nevada's ballot, an initiative petition must have the signatures of 10 percent of the voters in 13 of the state's 17 counties.
The Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana, the Marijuana Policy Project and the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada are challenging the 13-of-17 counties provision, and also are challenging the disqualification of petition signatures obtained from people who registered to vote at the same time.
Assistant Solicitor General Richard Linstrom and Senior Deputy Attorney General Victoria T. Oldenburg said in their motion, filed Friday, that the multiple counties provision is needed because 85 percent of Nevada voters are in just two counties.
"Because Clark County and Washoe County hold such a huge percentage of Nevada's registered voters, a statewide initiative that is popular with registered voters in Nevada's two largest counties could reach the ballot without the support of any of Nevada's other 15 sparsely populated counties," Linstrom and Oldenburg said.
If the 13-of-17-counties rule is struck down, they added the two major counties "could completely control the statewide initiative process."
The marijuana petition also was found to be defective and 17,872 signatures were not counted in Clark County because some of the petition document affidavits were not signed by registered voters. In line with a court ruling, those signatures were added back in, but the petition was still 4,629 signatures short.