Nevada Republicans took a significant step Monday in their plan to take back control of the state Legislature through a series of recall elections ― an effort even the state’s GOP governor has criticized as “dangerous.”
Democrats won control of both houses of the Nevada Legislature last November and currently hold a slim 11-9 majority in the state Senate. In August, Republicans filed recall petitions against three senators ― two Democrats and an independent who caucuses with them.
None of the three are accused of malfeasance or wrongdoing, which is in any case not required by state law. Michael Roberson, the Republicans’ Senate leader, has simply called for their ouster on the grounds that Democrats generally have been “radicalized.”
Roberson has also not hid his party’s real agenda, telling voters last month that Republicans would “be back in the majority almost immediately” and that they would remain in power until after the 2020 census, when new electoral maps will be drawn, according to the Nevada Independent.
On Monday, supporters of the Republican effort submitted more than 17,000 signatures calling for a recall of state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse (D). Election officials will review and verify those signatures, but only 14,412 need to be valid to force a recall vote. Nevada law provides for a recall election if a petition gathers the signatures of 25 percent of the people who voted in the earlier election won by the lawmaker.
Petitions with sufficient signatures are expected to be filed against the other two senators ― Democrat Nicole Cannizzaro and independent Patricia Farley ― in early November, the Independent reports.
Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) told the news outlet that he didn’t think there was a “legitimate reason” for the recalls and said they would set a “dangerous precedent.”
“It’s an escalation of tactics, and I said, I hate to see that happen,” Sandoval said. “It’s never happened before, but it probably will likely become another typical arrow in the quiver for both parties. I hope it doesn’t, but again, if it’s successful, and the voters do recall these individuals, I can’t see why all of them wouldn’t use it going forward.”
The state has seen 150 recall efforts since 1993, the last year a legislator was successfully ousted, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
It’s unclear who is funding the latest campaign, and those pushing it don’t have to disclose their identity until four days before the special election, if one is called.
Woodhouse, who last year won re-election to a third term by just 469 votes, may have been targeted because of her support for sanctuary city legislation, according to the Nevada Independent.
“This politically motivated recall effort has been an affront to voters and a blatant abuse of the process by individuals who are unfortunately still bitter about the results of the last election,” Woodhouse said in a statement. The state senator vowed to monitor the signature verification process and to defend her “record of accomplishment.”
Democrats have launched an effort to reach out to people who signed the petitions to ask them if they understand the implications of recall elections and if that kind of electoral upset is what they really want.
Republicans are “wasting time and taxpayer dollars on these unnecessary recall efforts,” said Jessica Post, executive director of the national Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, in a statement on Monday. Post’s organization helps elect Democrats to state legislatures.
A federal lawsuit brought on behalf of voters living in the three senatorial districts argues that the recall effort violates the Voting Rights Act as well as the First and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
In Nevada, people can force a recall election for “no reason other than dissatisfaction with the outcome of the prior election,” the lawsuit says. The current effort places an undue burden on voters in the three relevant districts, the suit contends.
“Nevada voters are perpetually at risk of: (i) having their casted votes nullified by an unjustified recall; (ii) bearing the undue burden of having to vote again and again to ensure that their elected officials can serve out full terms; and (iii) having the attention, time, and resources of their elected officials diverted to defending against recalls rather than governing and making policy,” the suit contends.
The lawyers behind the legal challenge include Washington attorney Marc Elias, who served as general counsel to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
The Public Interest Legal Foundation, which is led by J. Christian Adams, a member of President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission, filed a motion to intervene in the case on Monday. In a statement, the foundation argued that the plaintiffs were using a flawed interpretation of the Voting Rights Act and trying to impose an unconstitutional restriction on the state of Nevada. The statement also noted Elias’ involvement.