Attorneys for the state Democrat and Republican parties argued their cases Tuesday before the Nevada Supreme Court over whether they should pick their candidates for the special election to fill the vacant 2nd Congressional District seat, or whether it should be a “ballot royale.”
The Democrat Party and Secretary of State Ross Miller, himself a Democrat, are asking the court to rule by July 6 that any and all comers should be able to file to fill the vacancy left with the appointment of former Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., to the U.S. Senate.
Attorneys for the Republicans say Miller exceeded his authority in making the election a free-for-all, and that the parties should select the single candidate to represent them in a special election that has been set for Sept. 13, although it is possible this date might have to be changed.
Some Supreme Court justices appeared to question if Miller’s administrative decision to allow any candidate to run as a Republican or Democrat was appropriate, given the requirements in Nevada state law and the failure of the secretary of state’s office to finalize regulations on such a special election following the Legislature’s adoption of a new law addressing the issue in 2003.
“What is of concern to me is a broader legal question, (which) is the extent to which deference should be given by this court or any court to an administrative decision which is not represented by regulation,” said Justice James Hardesty.
But Justice Mark Gibbons asked attorney David O’Mara, representing the state Republican Party, why the court should not defer to Miller.
“Why shouldn’t we just let the secretary of state make this decision and interpretation, because otherwise we’re going to have judges running these elections and setting the policy” which is probably not the best option, he said. “Maybe it’s better for the chief elected official of the state to make these decisions.”
Miller, who sat in on the 45-minute oral argument in front of the seven justices, one of whom participated from Las Vegas, said too much should not be read into the questioning. Only a final ruling from the court will clarify the court’s position, he said.