Backers of state Senate recalls file last-chance appeal, likely heads to state Supreme Court

Riley Snyder
Riley Snyder
Front view of the Nevada State Court building

Backers of groups attempting to recall two Democratic state senators are moving to appeal a court decision that found their efforts failed to gain enough signatures to qualify for a special election, likely sending the case to the state Supreme Court.

The two political action committees seeking to qualify a recall effort against state Sens. Nicole Cannizzaro and Joyce Woodhouse on Tuesday filed a notice of intent to appeal an April decision by District Court Judge Jerry Wiese that neither recall petition had enough signatures to qualify for a special recall election, after the removal of several blocks of invalid signatures.

The appeal is a last-chance effort for backers of the recall efforts, which were launched 10 months ago and need a favorable ruling from the state’s highest court to continue moving forward.

Although the two recall efforts initially submitted enough signatures to qualify for a special election, Democratic groups opposing the efforts were able to turn in thousands of signature withdrawal requests that drove the number down below the qualifying threshold.

The appeal will likely focus on whether the court should accept a group of signature withdrawal forms turned in after the recall petition was submitted to county election officials. In March, Wiese upheld the constitutionality of those signature withdrawals.

Nevada law requires recalls to obtain the signatures of 25 percent of the voters who cast a ballot in the last election of the targeted office-holder within a 90-day period. Signatures are then reviewed by state and local election officials, who remove invalid signatures to determine whether the gathered signatures meet the minimum legal threshold.

Under the final order entered by Wiese and not counting the hundreds of post-submission withdrawal forms, the recall petition targeting Woodhouse was 196 signatures short of the needed 14,216 to qualify, and the Cannizzaro petition was 506 short of the needed 14,469 signatures to qualify.

Supporters of the recall efforts have largely avoided the spotlight, though the Republican State Leadership Committee had transferred more than $1.2 million to the two PACs pursuing the recalls. Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison argued the initial case in court, and state Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson has been a vocal proponent of the recall efforts.

In a statement, the Nevada Senate Democrats said they weren’t surprised at the appeal and believed the state Supreme Court would uphold the lower court’s ruling.

“Losing isn’t easy to swallow,” they said in a statement. “The fact remains, however, that the district court found resoundingly for Senators Woodhouse and Cannizzaro, and it is certain that the Nevada Supreme Court will uphold its legal and factual findings.”

Daniel Stewart, the attorney representing the recall PACs, said last month that even if the Supreme Court was to overturn the lower court and qualify one or both of the petitions, the ensuing special election wouldn’t take place until late 2018 or early 2019 — which could run right into the next session of the Legislature, which will begin meeting in 2019.


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