Article 19 of the Nevada Constitution was amended in by the Legislature and the people about the time I was born. It’s about how citizens of a state go about petitioning its government directly. The focus is mostly on state matters – state law, the state Constitution, etc. Way down in section 4, it says “Oh, by the way, this applies to counties (regional government) and cities (city government) as well. It combines both in that one paragraph.
initiative petitions may be instituted by a number of registered voters equal to 15 percent or more of the voters who voted at the last preceding general county or municipal election.
When the Legislature next met, it turned the new Article 19 into Nevada Revised Statute 295. They separated county initiatives and city initiatives into separate sections, as you can see. They considered whether the amendment authors meant :”at the last preceding general county or general municipal election” or meant what they wrote.
Amongst their considerations is how odd City Elections are: they are held apart from normal November elections, in June. Often, only half of the city votes. Sometimes, there is no general election. Generally, cities’ purpose – making sure the water system works, the sewer system works, the police, fire and emergency response systems work, and the roads are serviceable – does not make controversy. Redevelopment Agencies had not yet been added to Nevada law, so no one had figured out how to turn them to personal profit at the expense of taxpayers, or that they don’t accomplish much.
And they decided that the amendment authors actually meant what they wrote, not something else. So, in the paragraphs about cities which does not include counties, they wrote (at 295.205(2)):
Initiative petitions must be signed by a number of registered voters of the city equal to 15 percent or more of the number of voters who voted at the last preceding city election.
In determining the number at 2,305, the City Clerk applied the Constitution’s plain reading, the law, and all City of Las Vegas precedent to base the calculation on the turnout at the last preceding city election.
Yesterday’s letter is based on the City deciding that the Legislature was wrong, lo those many years ago. Instead, the Constitution doesn’t mean what it says, because it was sloppily drafted. The City now contends that what they really meant to write was “at the last preceding general county or general municipal election” instead of what they actually wrote.
What do you think? Any attorneys out there want to take this up pro-bono? Maybe ask a judge for an extension of time, at the least?