New Challenge Delays Hearing on Churchill Brothel Question

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A decision on whether a question to ban brothels in Churchill County will appear on the November ballot was delayed after new challenges were raised about petition signatures.

During a hearing Tuesday, an attorney for Nevadans for Freedom of Choice argued that not only was the petition process flawed, but gatherers failed to get enough valid signatures to qualify the measure for Nov. 2 ballot.

"The issue is, are there enough signatures on this petition? Our position is there are not," said Reno attorney Patty Cafferata.

Nevadans for Freedom of Choice filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction to prevent Churchill County Clerk Gloria Venturacci from putting it on the ballot.

Besides Venturacci, others named in the legal challenge include Elizabeth Earl, who spearheaded the anti-brothel petition drive; the Coalition to End Prostitution in Churchill County; and people who helped gather signatures.

District Judge Archie Blake was to consider whether the allegations of deficiencies in signature collecting and notarizing should prevent a public vote.

Attorneys for the defendants contend that a few technical mistakes shouldn't preclude a vote and that the right to vote and petition should be protected.

But Blake continued the hearing for a week to give Venturacci and others time to respond to the new claim.

Cafferata alleged a random sampling done by Venturacci's office did not verify enough valid signatures to qualify the question for the ballot.

Cafferata cited a state law that says at least 90 percent of the sampling of signatures must be deemed valid.

She claimed Venturacci's own documents show the percentage at 81.

Cafferata also questioned why Venturacci's documents say there were 1,337 signatures turned into her office on June 25 while the coalition claimed only 1,194 signatures.

For the petition to be valid, at least 742 registered voters - 10 percent of those who voted in the last general election - must have signed it.

Prostitution has been legal in Churchill County since 1974, when voters approved an ordinance allowing two brothels within county limits.