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ACLU v. Lomax

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In ACLU v. Lomax, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that Nevada's petition law known as the "13 counties rule" was unconstitutional. The case was decided on December 8, 2006.

The unconstitutional "13 counties rule" required that initiative petitions be signed by a number of registered voters equal to 10 percent or more of number of voters who voted at the last preceding general election in not less 13 of the 17 counties in Nevada. The court found that it was unconstitutional because it diluted the preferences of residents of densely populated counties.

In 2007, the Nevada State Legislature passed Nevada Senate Bill 549 (2007), which also has a distribution requirement. The
American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the new law in February 2008.

Background

The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of the committee seeking to place the Nevada Regulation of Marijuana Initiative (2004) on the ballot.

The Nevada Secretary of State determined that it did not qualify for the ballot because the petition failed to garner the requisite number of valid signatures. Thousands of signature were disqualified because they did not satisfy two "non-signature" requirements, as contained in the Dual Affidavit and Deemed Registered rules.

The Secretary determined that the initiative petition failed to comply with two signature rules-the Statewide Rule, which requires that at least 10% of Nevada's eligible voters sign the petition, and the 13 Counties Rule, which requires that the initiative proponents obtain signatures from at least 10% of the eligible voters in at least 13 of the 17 Nevada counties.

The plaintiffs challenged the 13 Counties, Dual Affidavit, and Deemed Registered rules in district court, and moved for a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of these requirements. The Committee alleged that the 13 Counties Rule violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because it treats more favorably the votes of residents of sparsely populated counties than the votes of densely populated counties, thereby diluting the votes of the latter.

Outcome

The court granted permanent injunctive relief with respect to the 13 Counties and Dual Affidavit rules.

The court determined that the 13 Counties Rule is unconstitutional. It violates the equal protection tenet of "one person, one vote," and is not narrowly tailored.

It is indistinguishable from a similar rule struck down in Idaho Coalition United for Bears v. Cenarrusa.