If only Secretary of State Dean Heller had written regulations for a House special election, we wouldn’t have such controversy over filling U.S. Sen. Dean Heller’s seat.
But the Republican did not, as a 2003 law instructed, write any rules, so now we have chaos, thanks to a Carson City judge’s stunning decision last week that overturned the guidelines proposed by Heller’s Democratic successor, Ross Miller. And reading through the 97-page transcript of Judge Todd Russell’s decision reveals a jurist who seemed immediately predisposed to the GOP argument that party central committees should nominate and hostile to the Democratic Party claim that it should be, as Miller calls it, a “ballot royale.”
Followed up by a contradictory order Russell telegraphed from the beginning where he was going, later trying to tamp down any speculation while having a colloquy with Deputy Attorney General Kevin Benson by urging him not to conclude “anything by my questions.”
The legal issues are somewhat complex, but still reducible: The Republicans say Miller overstepped his authority by calling for a “ballot royale” and that parties have a right to nominate. Democrats say the secretary of state, as the chief elections officer, is granted deference in the law and — it depends on what the definition of “nominate” is.
Beyond all the legal folderol, though, high-powered Democratic lawyer Marc Elias made a resonating point, which is “elections work in Nevada, they work throughout the country by having certain principles which are plain and which are clear, and then allowing (election officials) the opportunity to fill in those gaps.”
That is, if that principle is undermined, then courts will run elections, not those delegated by law to do so.