CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - State and county election officials are awaiting a Nevada Supreme Court decision on how the special election to fill a vacant U.S. House seat will be conducted - who can appear on the ballot and when the election will take place.
The high court heard oral arguments last week, and Secretary of State Ross Miller has said a decision is needed by Wednesday to meet the Sept. 13 election date set by Gov. Brian Sandoval.
Alan Glover, Carson City clerk-recorder, hopes the ruling comes sooner rather than later.
"We are all set for that date," he said Tuesday. "We work months in advance setting up an election.
"If they move that date, we've got really big problems," Glover said.
Nevada has never had a special election to fill a vacant House seat. After Sandoval appointed Republican Rep. Dean Heller to the Senate to replace John Ensign, Miller said the race for the 2nd Congressional seat would be an open contest.
But the Republican Party sued, arguing major party central committees should pick their nominee. A state district judge in Carson City sided with the GOP, rejecting Miller's call for a "ballot royale" open to anyone, without a filing fee, who otherwise qualifies.
Miller and the Democratic Party appealed to the Supreme Court, though the GOP and Democrats have since picked their preferred
candidates - former Republican state Sen. Mark Amodei and Democratic state Treasurer Kate Marshall - should the ballot field be limited.
Nevada's sprawling 2nd Congressional District encompasses a slice of Clark County in the south and spreads throughout the rest of the state. Republicans hold a huge voter registration advantage in the largely rural territory, and a crowded ballot could benefit Marshall and help Democrat's claim the seat for the first time since the district was created in 1982.
As of the June 30 deadline, 30 candidates filed for the seat. There are 15 Republicans, nine Democrats, four independents and one each from the Independent American and Libertarian parties. Most are political unknowns with little or no name recognition or experience. On the Republican side, retired Navy Cmdr. Kirk Lippold, who was skipper of the USS Cole when it was attacked by terrorists in Yemen in 2001, could pose the biggest challenge to Amodei.
In earlier legal briefs, justices asked both sides whether the court could move the special election back.
Because under state statute the special election must be held on a Tuesday within 180 days, Miller said the latest it could be conducted is Nov. 1. He also said he believed the court had authority to move the date, even though the statute says the date is set by the governor.
In their reply, attorneys for the GOP said they don't oppose delaying the election, but questioned whether the Supreme Court had authority to change the date.
"Doing so could further jeopardize an already questioned process," they wrote, urging the court to "proceed with the case without rescheduling the election."
Miller also had asked counties to assess the costs of conducting mail only balloting.
Washoe County in northern Nevada, which is home to about 55 percent of voters within the 2nd Congressional District, said a mail only ballot would cost about $4,000 more than a traditional election because the county would be responsible for paying first-class return postage.
Clark County estimated mail balloting would add about $30,000 to its cost.
For Carson City, Glover said the cost of a mail-only election versus staffed polling locations is a wash.
"But if they were to change the date, then the mail-in becomes a lot more attractive option," he said.