If only Secretary of State Dean Heller had written regulations for a House special election, we wouldn’t have such controversy over filling Sen. Dean Heller’s seat.
But Heller 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 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.”
Or, perhaps, by the judge’s inflammatory assertion that “irreparable harm” would be caused to the GOP if the judge did not side with them, which seemed to do little more than give new first and last names to The Woman The Republicans Fear Most, who hereafter should be referred to in all documents simply as Irreparable Harm.
The politics here are easy: The Democrats want a free-for-all because it could give them a chance to take the seat, if only until November 2012. Worst case, they figure, it gives a leg up to Sharron Angle, despised by many Republicans for not erasing Harry Reid from the political map. The Republicans want to prevent Angle from winning the seat, thus making it ever-vulnerable, or allowing the Democrats a shot at a district that a Republican has occupied since it was created 30 years ago.
The legal issues are slightly more 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.