Federal court invalidates Nevada ballot initiative petition law

[JURIST] Judge Philip M. Pro of the US District Court for the District of Nevada [official website] issued an order [text, PDF] Tuesday granting a plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and invalidating Nevada's so-called County Population Rule [NRS 295.012 text] as unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution. The order stems from a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] filed by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) [advocacy website] and the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada (ACLU-NV) [advocacy website] challenging a Nevada law known as the County Population Rule, which required petitions for ballot initiatives to amend the Nevada Constitution [text] be signed by a number of registered voters from each county equal to ten percent of the voters who voted in the entire state at the last preceding general election. The lawsuit alleged that the law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution by favoring residents of sparsely populated counties over residents of heavily populated counties. Using the strict scrutiny test developed by the Supreme Court for Equal Protection Clause analysis, Judge Pro wrote:

Because Defendants do not meet their burden of showing the County Population Rule is narrowly tailored to serve its interests and the Rule violates one person, one vote, no genuine issue of material fact exists that the County Population rule violates the Equal Protection Clause. The Court will therefor grant Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment ... Further, the Court declares the County Population Rule in Nevada Revised Statute [Section] 295.012 unconstitutional and enjoins Defendant [Nevada Secretary of State Ross] Miller from enforcing the County Population Rule.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal has more.

Tuesday's order invalidating the County Population Rule comes after a similar law was found unconstitutional in 2005 after a challenge by the ACLU-NV. In a press release, MPP director of state campaigns Neal Levine urged Nevada not to appeal the decision [MPP press release] saying "This is now the second time we've defeated the state on the exact same issue. How many more times do you think it's going to take before they stop passing unconstitutional initiative laws?" The ACLU-NV also released a press release characterizing the order as a victory [ACLU-NV press release] that was necessary to "protect the right of the people to access the initiative process."

 

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