Indy Explains: What AJR10 would do to change Nevada’s minimum wage

The Assembly voted 26-16 on party lines Monday — with all Republicans opposed — to pass AJR10, a proposed constitutional amendment that would raise and restructure the minimum wage. But what’s the significance of the move, considering Nevada is already on track for minimum wage increases in the future?

Here are some key facts.

What is the minimum wage currently?

Nevada has a two-tier system for minimum wage rates that requires businesses to pay $9 an hour if they do not offer health insurance and $8 if they do. 

The last time that Nevada’s minimum wage laws changed was in 2019, when lawmakers passed AB456, which gradually raises the minimum wage each year until 2024. The bill specifies that:

  • By July 1, 2020, the minimum wage would be $9 an hour if the employer did not offer health insurance, and $8 an hour if they did.
  • By July 1, 2021, the minimum wage would be $9.75 an hour if the employer did not offer health insurance, and $8.75 an hour if they did.
  • By July 1, 2022, the minimum wage would be $10.50 an hour if the employer did not offer health insurance, and $9.50 an hour if they did.
  • By July 1, 2023, the minimum wage would be $11.25 an hour if the employer did not offer health insurance, and $10.25 an hour if they did.
  • By July 1, 2024, the minimum wage would be $12 an hour if the employer did not offer health insurance, and $11 an hour if they did.

What does AJR10 (of the 2019 session) do?

The main feature of the resolution is doing away with the two-level system in the state Constitution and creating a single minimum wage, even for employers that offer health insurance. Some employers who otherwise would be paying a minimum rate of $11 per hour by 2024 under the current plan in state law would have to pay $12 if the resolution passes.

The resolution:

  • Proposes to amend the Nevada Constitution to set the minimum wage at $12 per hour beginning July 1, 2024, regardless of health benefits.
  • Removes the annual adjustment to the minimum wage and instead stipulates that if at any time the federal minimum wage is greater than $12 per hour, the state wage would increase to match the higher federal minimum wage.
  • Allows the Legislature to establish a minimum wage greater than the hourly rate set forward in the Constitution.

If the measure passes both houses of the Legislature this session, it will head to a statewide vote in 2022. The Senate has not yet voted on the resolution.

Through language adopted by a ballot measure approved in 2006, the Nevada Constitution includes minimum wages of $5.15 per hour and $6.15 an hour based on insurance offerings, but prescribes a formula for reviewing and potentially adjusting the rate each year based on any increases in the federal minimum wage or the cost of living.

Before the increases prescribed by the Legislature in 2019, Nevada’s minimum wages had been $7.25 an hour and $8.25 an hour since 2011.

What are the arguments in favor of the resolution?

Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson (D-Las Vegas), who presented the measure, argued that minimum wage jobs are often the basis for supporting a family and not simply entry-level positions for teenagers. He said the resolution allowed time for employers to adjust to a higher rate and was a compromise from the original proposal, which called for a minimum wage of $15.

On the bill’s health insurance provisions, Frierson said the quality of health insurance plans used to qualify for the lower rate varied widely, with some offering deductibles of $20 and others offering deductibles of $1,000.

Progressive groups say employers have abused the two-tiered minimum wage to take advantage of the lower of the two rates.

“We have heard story after story where businesses are able to pay $1 less than the current minimum wage in the state simply because they offer unaffordable garbage health care plans that employees rarely opt into because of cost,” Annette Magnus, executive director of Battle Born Progress, testified earlier this month. “No one should be paid a dollar less because their employer is taking advantage of a loophole to save a dollar an hour especially when people are struggling.”

What are the arguments against the resolution?

Opponents argued that raising the minimum wage would eliminate entry-level jobs and hurt teenage workers trying to get their foot in the door of the job market. Janine Hansen, president of Nevada Families for Freedom, referenced a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis from when Congress was considering a $15 minimum wage — a change more dramatic than the one in AJR10.

The CBO’s research indicated that raising the minimum wage would increase earnings and family incomes for most low-wage workers and pull some families out of poverty. Still, the analysis noted that some low-wage workers would become jobless, and their family income would fall, possibly below the poverty threshold.

Specifically, the February 2021 report said that, based on median estimates, in an average week in 2025, a $15 federal minimum wage would increase wages for about 17 million workers who would otherwise earn less than that amount. Another 10 million workers who earn slightly more than $15 an hour would also likely be affected, as employers seek to keep their wages higher than the lowest earners, and about 1.4 million workers would be out of a job. 

The report also estimated that about 900,000 fewer Americans would be living in poverty.

The Las Vegas Chamber opposed AJR10 in a committee hearing last week. Spokeswoman Cara Clarke said that was “because of a variety of concerns including the increased costs to employers, and the potential negative impact on job creation, as well as job losses.”

The Nevada Republican Party criticized the Assembly passage of the resolution in a tweet on Monday.

“Nevada's economy has been put in jeopardy due to the @GovSisolak shutdown,” the post said. “Instead of focusing on opening up our state and restoring jobs, @nvdems in the assembly have passed AJR 10 ** which looks to increase the minimum wage and regress Nevada's economy even more!”

What’s happening with the minimum wage at the federal level?

The federal minimum wage stands at $7.25 an hour.

President Joe Biden called for a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage in January. Later that month, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) sponsored the “Raise the Wage Act,” which would gradually raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 per hour by 2025.

Support for raising the minimum wage tends to fall along party lines, with Democrats generally in favor and Republicans mainly in opposition. 

Though the “Raise the Wage Act” has not advanced since Sanders introduced it, efforts to increase the minimum wage through an amendment to the COVID relief package in the Senate in March failed by a vote of 58 to 42.

The eight Senate Democrats who joined 50 Republicans in voting against the amendment cited a need for a separate discussion around raising the minimum wage, not a measure slapped onto a COVID relief package.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) voted for the amendment to the COVID aid package and Rosen is also listed as a co-sponsor on the “Raise the Wage Act.”

“I’ve long supported action that raises the minimum wage to 15 dollars an hour,” Rosen told The Nevada Independent in March. “I am a proud co-sponsor of the Raise the Wage Act, legislation that builds to 15 dollars an hour over a 5 year time period, in order to both meet the concerns and needs of small businesses and employees.” 

Some Republican members of the Senate have indicated willingness to consider a federal minimum wage increase; Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) introduced a measure in mid-February to increase the minimum wage to $10 over the span of four years and to index it for inflation. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) also proposed a plan in early March to raise the minimum wage to $15, but only for businesses with more than $1 billion in annual revenue.

The last time the federal minimum wage increased was in 2009 when it rose from $6.55 to $7.25 as part of a three-step plan approved by Congress in 2007 under the Bush administration. Before implementing the 2007 measure, the minimum wage remained at $5.15 an hour for a period of 10 years.

Indy Explains: Legislative Democrats’ plan for permanent expanded mail-in voting

The next front in the war over Nevada election laws is finally here.

Introduced Wednesday, AB321 is sponsored by Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson and would make Nevada the sixth state to adopt a largely all-mail voting system, following Oregon, Washington, Utah, Colorado and Hawaii. 

The bill is the fulfilment of a promise that Frierson made earlier in the session to make the state’s pandemic-induced change to mail balloting in the 2020 election permanent, but is also likely to draw staunch opposition from Republican lawmakers who have denounced the expansion of mail voting and have introduced many of their own election-related proposals.

But the bill does more than just make expanded mail voting permanent. It also would shorten the deadline for fixing issues with signatures on mail ballots and for how late a mail ballot could be counted after election day. 

It also would explicitly authorize election clerks to use electronic devices in signature verification, require more training on signature verification and adopt a handful of other provisions aimed at beefing up election security measures. 

To be clear, many details in the bill could change (the measure hasn’t even been scheduled for a hearing as of Friday). But it’s already attracted some tentative support from an important ally — Gov. Steve Sisolak.

“The Governor has been supportive of efforts to expand voting access and opportunities for eligible Nevadans, and based on how Nevadans embraced voting by mail in record numbers this past fall, he believes it makes sense to consider making this a permanent option while also ensuring continued opportunities to vote in person,” Sisolak spokeswoman Meghin Delaney said in an email, while noting that the governor will continue to “review and evaluate any legislation that may come before him.”

Here’s how AB321 would change future elections in Nevada:

Enshrining expanded mail-in voting while changing deadlines

In a technical sense, AB321 fulfills the Republican legislative goal of repealing AB4 from the 2020 special session — the bill that expanded mail-in voting during the pandemic or other declared state of emergencies.

The bill repeals large sections of election law related to mail and absentee ballots (including AB4) — but re-enacts many of the same provisions in a more streamlined way.

As with AB4, the bill would require all county and city clerks to send every active registered voter a mail ballot before a primary or general election. Inactive voters, who are legally registered to vote but don’t have a current address on file with election officials, would not be sent a mail ballot (inactive voters were sent a mail ballot in the 2020 primary election, but a failure to update Clark County voter lists in time before the general election led to many of them being sent general election ballots).

The bill would allow voters to opt-out of being mailed a ballot, by providing written notice to their local or county election clerk. 

But AB321 also changes some of the deadlines that were in place for the 2020 election.

AB4 allowed election officials to accept mail ballots that were postmarked by Election Day and received within seven days after election day. If passed, AB321 would shorten that deadline from seven days after the election to four days.

It also would reduce the amount of time in which voters can fix issues with their signature on a mail ballot — a process called “signature cure.” The provisions of AB4 gave voters a 7-day window after Election Day to “cure” a signature issue or error; AB321 would shorten that to six days after the election.

Another shortened deadline is how long election officials would have to process mail ballots. As in AB4, election officials could still start processing received mail ballots up to 15 days before an election (totals would still be kept secret), but they would have to process all mail ballots by the 7th day after an election. AB4 allowed election boards to take up to nine days after an election to finish processing mail ballots.

The measure also would allow Indian reservations or colonies more time to request the establishment of a polling place within the boundaries of the reservation or colony. For primary elections, the deadline to request a polling place would be moved up from the first Friday in January to April 1, and from the first Friday in July to Sept. 1 for general elections.

The legislation maintains other contentious items in AB4, including legalized ballot collection (derided as “ballot harvesting” by opponents). Under those provisions, a voter can authorize another person to deliver their mail ballot to either a drop box or an election clerk’s office on their behalf, with substantial (felony) penalties if a person does not turn the ballot in before the election or otherwise fails to return the ballot.

Signature verification and other security measures

Beyond those changes, the bill also would implement explicit directions on machine signature verification and other security related provisions that were contested in court filings prior to the 2020 election.

For one, it grants explicit permission for election clerks to check signatures electronically — a point that the Trump campaign challenged in an ultimately unsuccessful federal lawsuit filed shortly after AB4 was approved, and shortly after election day in 2020.

If a county election clerk opts to use an electronic device for signature verification, AB321 requires a test of the accuracy of the machine before the election, and also requires it to be set to the same “standard for determining the validity of a signature” as a manual review by an elections worker. 

Clerks also would be required to conduct daily audits of each signature-checking device during the processing of mail ballots, which would include a review and sample of at least 1 percent of verified signatures each day. County clerks would also be required to prepare a report on each daily audit, and would require the review of signatures to be overseen by an election board whose members “must not all be of the same political party.”

Regardless of whether a county uses an electronic machine or staff to check signatures, AB321 would require that each county election clerk and any members of their staff who help administer elections complete a training class on forensic signature verification. The class has to be approved by the secretary of state’s office.

In a previous interview, Frierson discounted any notion that widespread fraud occurred in the 2020 election, but said he wanted to still take into consideration that a considerable number of voters had some doubts about the election administration process in 2020.

“Regardless of whether or not I believe that the basis for those concerns is legitimate or reliable, I do believe that we need to hear them out and make sure that we have an inclusive vetting process, and that we care about safe and secure elections,” he said in a February interview.

The bill retains the standard for signature verification present in AB4 — at least two election employees must have a “reasonable question of fact” as to whether the signature on the mail ballot matches the one on file, with “multiple, significant and obvious” differences between the signatures.

Another change is that the bill would require the secretary of state’s office to enter into an agreement with the State Registrar of Vital Statistics to cross check the list of registered voters in the state with a list of deceased individuals. The bill would require a comparison of records to be conducted at least monthly.

Though primarily focused on mail voting, the proposed legislation would also make a change for those who continue to vote in person. Under current law, if a registered voter shows up to a polling place and has a signature that doesn’t match the one on file, the election worker is allowed to ask for personal data or other forms of identification that verify their identity. The bill would exclude a person’s date of birth from that “personal data” that an election worker can ask about.

And while not directly related to election security, the bill also would add county or city clerks, or any of their deputies, to the list of occupations and positions which are allowed to request their personal records be kept confidential.

Indy Explains: The changes DETR is trying to make to unemployment taxes

When officials from the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) presented the bill SB75 to lawmakers last week, one unemployment claimant who called in to offer public comment called it “mumbo jumbo.”

The bill did not mention the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program for the self employed or more easily understood fixes to a system that has been flooded with more claims in the last year than there are workers in Nevada (although many of those claims are thought to be fraudulent). 

And it didn’t have much to say about complaints voiced by callers that people answering phones at DETR don’t have the authority to rectify their claim, that an application is in limbo because the claimant didn’t initially have a Social Security card, and that some unpaid applications are in a purgatory of appeals.

So what exactly does DETR’s main policy bill this session do? Below are some highlights of the legislation, which proposes changes that are likely of more interest to employers who pay into the state system than the claimants who are — or in many cases, aren’t — receiving benefits.

“Overall, the goal is to make sure we are in a position to handle future economic disruptions more effectively,” said DETR Administrator Elisa Cafferata. “Although I don't think anyone could have ever predicted what we saw.”

Changes to calculating the tax rate

The unemployment system is essentially insurance, and functions as such — employers pay taxes into the system equivalent to a portion of their workers’ taxable wages, and earn lower tax rates as they become more established and if they don’t lay people off.

But if they have to let people go, an employer will face a higher tax rate in the future. It’s like car insurance — drivers who get in a crash and make a claim will subsequently see higher premiums.

The pandemic was something like a catastrophic crash for employers. Because they laid off or furloughed large numbers of employees and sent them to the unemployment lines, they would have faced a major tax increase had the state not stepped in (and held them harmless through a bill passed in the summer special session and in regulation).

“We're sort of saying to employers, no harm, no foul. You know, that has nothing to do with sort of the normal course of events,” Cafferata said.

SB75 codifies the state’s intent not to dock employers based on claims made in the second and third quarter of 2020, when the bulk of applications for benefits came in. The state is also keeping the average tax rates charged to employers flat from 2020 to 2021.

Still, the bill seeks to return tax rates to what they otherwise would be without that intervention, and to change the formula the state uses to determine how much it should tax employers to ensure that the trust fund can sustain benefit payouts in a future downturn.  

DETR wants to make its forecasts by looking at the economy’s behavior over the past 20 years, rather than the last 10. It would then use the three years within that two-decade period when the unemployment system was most heavily used to project how much money it should build up so the trust fund hits an adequate level — considered enough to pay out a year and a half of benefits at the high rate it was paying on average in those three worst years.

Economist David Schmidt said the change would better reflect the realities of modern economic cycles, such as the decade-long period of economic growth preceding the pandemic — the longest period of economic expansion in U.S. history. It would also average out the extraordinary downturn of the pandemic with more typical recessions like the one in 2009 and 2010, so the state would be prepared for a situation in between.

“When you have the months and months and years and years of sort of economic growth that we've had, aside from the pandemic, it really isn't sort of a very reflective of the experience that we might expect,” he said.

DETR also says its new calculation proposal would make tax rates rise and fall more gradually and be more predictable for employers. The rate would not increase or decrease more than 10 percent in any given year.

“It really provides a more stable and predictive tax rate-setting process. So instead of sort of an open ended calculation, it calculates an average contribution rate for employers based on the current adequacy of the trust fund,” Cafferata said. “And this is probably the most important point for employers is, it limits the magnitude of change in the tax rates from year to year.”

The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce said it is still studying the impact of the bill, but the Retail Association of Nevada came out against the proposal. The group said that the unemployment trust fund was one of the bright spots of much-criticized DETR, and that the current formula was effective in preparing the state well for the downturn while keeping tax rates reasonable for businesses.

“There aren’t any good taxes, but the very worst ones are overly complicated to comply with and pay and they increase the cost of government to be able to administer such a complicated process,” said Bryan Wachter, a lobbyist for the retail association. “Twenty years is far too long, and a needless attempt to increase rates in a non century-defining economic condition.”

Alternate base period

The amount of regular unemployment benefits a person is eligible for is determined by how much they made in the “base period” — the five quarters immediately preceding the unemployment claim. DETR looks at the first four of those five quarters because there is a lag in how quickly employers report wages for the most recent quarter.

The law allows for an “alternate base period” (ABP) so that if people didn’t make enough money under the regular system, they can try qualifying based on the immediately preceding four quarters. 

“That actually creates quite a bit of administrative work for us, because you have to contact the employer and try and get your actual wages,” said Cafferata. “And some employers are very cooperative and some are not.”

DETR officials said the option is used by a small portion of claimants, but has contributed to the backlog because alternative base period claims take nearly an hour to process, on average — ten times longer than a normal claim. Out of the nearly 800,000 initial claims filed in 2020, only 11,604 ABP claims were processed and 8,113 people were paid.

“What that prevented us from doing was spending that time answering 116,000 calls,” said Jeffrey Frischmann, head of the Employment Security Division. “Where would you advise us to spend our time? Working ABP claims, or servicing 10 times more people?”

Cafferata said if claimants didn’t qualify because they could no longer use the alternative base period, they may have been eligible — and actually made more money — had they used the PUA program instead. PUA, however, may go away as early as March.

“That may be so unique to this COVID situation that it shouldn't be considered,” she said. “But just at the time we proposed the bill, we found that it really wasn't that helpful to folks, it really added to the backlog and those folks would have been better off in PUA.”

But legal aid providers, who serve clients who cannot otherwise afford an attorney, are fighting to keep the option available. Attorney Tyler Winkler told of a woman who was denied benefits because she did not have enough wages in her “base period” — but that’s because she was having pregnancy complications and was on maternity leave, and COVID shutdowns left her out of work shortly after she returned to the job.  

If the alternative base period was not available, claimants might have needed to wait six months before they became eligible, which would have created a hardship for the single mother he described.

“While reviewing a claimant's base period versus ABP requires some additional administrative costs, they are not substantial, and they are more than justified considering the long way ABP goes to provide immediate relief to workers who need to pay their bills,” he said.

As for using PUA as a backup, Winkler suggests eliminating the ABP option now for people who are otherwise eligible for PUA, but maintaining ABP for when PUA goes away. 

School support employees

Unions are supporting an amendment to the bill that would allow education support professionals who generally work from nine to 11 months a year be eligible for unemployment. That group — which includes bus drivers, teacher’s aides and cafeteria workers — is not currently eligible on the understanding that they can reasonably expect their jobs to be there for them after summer break.

Licensed educators, including teachers and administrators, are paid on a 12-month cycle, while many support staff find other summer jobs to cover the gap. That has been more difficult during the pandemic, with drastically reduced job opportunities.

“My understanding was that we didn't leave any citizens hurt by the pandemic,” one public commenter said. “You have low wage earners, unable to find work, unable to collect unemployment during the summer months, and left struggling and starving by themselves.” 

States have discretion on whether to allow employees who work for nine to 11 months into the unemployment benefits system. But such a change could be costly for school districts. 

School districts are considered “reimbursable employers,” meaning they pay the full cost of benefits that are paid out to people they employed. Under a more traditional “contributory” arrangement, employers pay a small percentage of total wages into the trust fund as insurance so they don’t have to pay the full benefit amount in the event their workers are laid off.

Clark County School District officials did not respond to requests for comment about their position on the bill or whether they have concerns about how much it would potentially cost.

But union officials say it’s only right that the districts pony up the money to extend protections to partial-year workers, especially after districts received significant amounts of COVID relief aid that could potentially be repurposed to cover the costs of insuring vulnerable employees.

“Every dollar that is in the district’s pocket is a dollar that is not being used to buy food or rent for our members,” said Alexander Marks, a lobbyist for the Nevada State Education Association. “The state’s districts got help. [Education support professionals] did not. And that is why we're offering this amendment.”

Criticism

Claimants who have struggled to secure benefits from the state shared frustration during the bill hearing that SB75 doesn’t speak to the issues they’re experiencing. 

One was Adam Francis, who said he uploaded more than 30 documents to try to confirm his identity but has been stuck because he didn’t initially have a Social Security card to submit. He’s told that his claim has been “escalated,” but otherwise has not heard back and doesn’t know what to do next.

“This entire presentation today has been difficult to listen to. Nothing short of putting lipstick on a pig,” said Adam Francis. “I applied in March. I still haven't received a dime.”

Michael Ross, who lost his gig as a keyboardist when the Rio casino shut down the show “Raiding the Rock Vault” because of health restrictions, said he has received both denial letters and approval letters and has been lingering in line for an appeal for months. He said he wouldn’t have made it this far without donations from people helping him subsist.

“Fill my fridge, give me my insulin, give me my benefit,” he said. “You guys will be relying on me when those doors open to bring that business back into town. I'm going to be up there shaking my ass.”

As of Tuesday, an opinion poll on the Legislature’s website logged 267 votes against the bill and 13 in favor; it was the measure with the second most opinions submitted so far this session.

Republican Sen. Keith Pickard (R-Las Vegas) said he was frustrated that the bill dealt with the regular unemployment system but didn’t mention the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

“A third of the claimants are 1099, the gig workers, and we don't seem to have addressed the issues with them at all,” he said. “So I'm concerned that a third of our constituents ... we're not doing anything to help them.” 

DETR officials said they have implemented improvements in their processes such as ramped up staffing, but did not have other bills pending aside from ones implementing the budget. 

“The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program is a brand new program that was implemented by Congress. And the rules and regulations are completely dependent on the government and the federal Department of Labor,” Cafferata said. “We certainly wish Congress would help us make this easier to implement, there is no doubt.”

Frischmann also said it would not make sense to change laws around a program that is set to expire in a month, even though a bill pending in Congress may extend that into August.

“We're expecting to see it extended again. However, we don't know. So to put together any statutes or anything for that,” he said. “This is a program that's fixing to end — it's a very short-term program.”

Indy Explains: Clark County begins five-day recount process in race determined by 10 votes

Clark County Election Department staff were on site bright and early at 5 a.m. on Monday to start a recount for the District C seat on the county commission — a process that election staff expect to take five days and that cost losing candidate Stavros Anthony nearly $80,000.

Anthony, a Republican, requested the recount on Friday, three days after the Clark County Commission voted to certify Democrat Ross Miller’s 10-vote victory in the race. The commission had originally chosen not to certify the results because of 139 ballot discrepancies in the district, which outnumbered Miller’s margin of victory. 

After a suit from Miller, an intervention by Anthony, and a statement from a judge that the discrepancies did not mean an election was prevented and, therefore, did not constitute “cause” for a new election to be called, the commission reconsidered its decision and voted to canvass and certify initial results on Tuesday.

What has resulted from the contentious process is a recount in a massive district where more than 153,000 ballots will need to be reviewed.

Here are some details on how it’s happening.

A stack of custody log forms as seen during a recount at the Clark County Election Department in Las Vegas on Monday, Dec. 07, 2020. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

How is a recount called? 

There is no automatic recount process in the state of Nevada. Some states require recounts for ties and close races with victory percentages less than or equal to .5 percent.

Instead, recounts must be requested by any losing candidate, no matter the margin of the race, who then deposits the estimated cost of the recount with the election’s officer in the region. Nevada is one of 39 states where a candidate can call for a recount. In some states, recounts can only happen automatically.

Additionally, Nevada is one of eight states where a voter could call for a recount on a ballot question. These requests must be made within three working days of the canvass and certification of the votes by the appropriate city or county board.

What about the money?

As the party who called for the recount, Anthony is responsible for depositing the cost in advance. In this case, it’s more than $79,000.

Anthony called that price “outrageous” in a tweet on Friday in which he also requested donations from supporters to help cover the cost. According to Anthony’s campaign manager, Lisa Mayo-DeRiso, Anthony spent most of Monday phonebanking to draw financial support and to encourage volunteers to observe the counting in the coming days.

If a recount ends with a change to the results in an election, the party who called for the recount is refunded the advance deposit, and the state or county that conducted the recount is responsible for the cost. In this case, if Anthony is declared the winner, Clark County will bear the cost of the recount. 

If the recount determines that Miller retained his victory and the recount’s cost is less than the estimated amount provided to Anthony, Anthony will be refunded the difference.

According to Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria, the cost of these recounts is mostly a result of staffing costs. Gloria also said the cost includes having a representative of Dominion Voting Systems, the vendor which supplies voting machines in the county, on site in case of any issues.

Nevada statutes say that recount costs are allowed to include building utilities, salaries for employees, services from agencies that administer telecommunications or provide computer system support, per diem and mileage allowances for county clerks, extra materials such as tally books, and any required support from equipment vendors. The cost cannot include utilities, rent, or payments that would be paid by the county even without the recount.

How does the recount work?

For a recount of this size, the election department is utilizing two shifts of staff every day over the course of five days. Counting will last from 5:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. each day.

Gloria says he’s “pretty confident” the recount will take the full five days.

“There’s a considerable number of ballots to be counted,” he told The Nevada Independent on Monday. “We’ll definitely go well into Friday.”

He also indicated that starting on Tuesday, the county will give reports on the number of ballot boxes left to count.

During the recount, counting staff are only looking at the selections made by voters in the District C race and are not recounting votes for any other race or question included on those ballots.

The staff tasked with counting the ballots are a combination of permanent election department staff and temporary workers contracted to perform the service. Employees perform a variety of tasks including processing early voting and mail-in ballots and adjudicating ballots in question.

Ballot adjudication occurs when a correction or error on a ballot prevents it from being read by a machine. In order to correct a mistaken vote on a ballot, voters must cross out the name of the incorrectly selected party and then select the preferred candidate. Because machines read these corrections as a voter selecting multiple candidates, ballot counters are tasked with determining a voter’s intent.

In order to do this, the ballot being adjudicated is projected on two large screens while ballot counters look at the selections made to determine whether one name was clearly marked either as a preference or a mistake.

Observers sit in front of a ballot counting area during a recount at the Clark County Election Department in Las Vegas on Monday, Dec. 07, 2020. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

Observers can see the projected ballot while it is being analyzed from where they are placed beyond the plexiglass barrier that divides ballot counters from the general public.

There were multiple observers in attendance in the election department warehouse in North Las Vegas on Monday, including Miller, Anthony campaign manager Mayo-DeRiso, and volunteers observing on behalf of Anthony’s campaign. 

Past recounts

Nevada’s most recent major recount was for the Senate District 20 seat in the 2018 general election. Democratic candidate Julie Pazina called for the recount after results showed her trailing Republican opponent Keith Pickard by 28 votes out of 55,368 cast. 

The 2018 recount did not change the outcome of that election, although it did slightly narrow Pickard’s margin of victory. Final results gave him a win by 24 votes.

Recounts also took place in 2016 for Assembly District 31 in Washoe County and in the presidential election. In the Assembly district, more than 30,000 votes were recounted in one day in the race between Republican Jill Dickman and Democrat Skip Daly. That recount also did not change the final outcome of the race but did narrow the lead of winner Daly from 38 to 36.

In the presidential election, a partial recount took place in Nevada in five counties, including four rural counties and several precincts in Clark County. The recount reviewed 93,840 ballots between these counties and resulted in both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump losing “erroneous votes.” Clinton lost nine, and Trump lost six.

The partial recount in the 2016 election was requested by independent presidential candidate Roque De La Fuente, who received .23 percent of the vote in the general election. The recount cost De La Fuente $6,500.

Indy Explains: The Electoral College: How a candidate can lose the presidency after winning a majority of votes

Almost 3 million more people voted for Hillary Clinton than for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, yet it is Trump’s pardon that saves a Thanksgiving turkey's life and whose signature on an executive order can change American lives in an instant. 

This phenomenon of a president taking office who did not win a majority of voters on Election Day has happened in five of the country's 58 elections: 1824, 1876, 1888, 2000 and 2016. It's a rare but possible side effect of the uniquely American system of the Electoral College. 

Enshrined in the Constitution, the Electoral College members — a select group of important figures in political parties in each state known as "electors" — are who actually votes for the president.

When a voter casts a ballot, then, it doesn't directly count in the presidential election. Instead, the vote is tallied with those of others who live in the same state, and the candidate with the most votes wins what is known as the “popular vote.” The designated electors for each state then cast their votes in mid-December, typically matching the winner of the popular vote of the state, though some rare "faithless electors" go rogue and vote for someone else. The results from that count determine who becomes president.

In 2016, for example, Clinton walked away with 65.9 million votes in the popular vote and Trump with 63 million. But Trump won 304 electoral votes, topping Clinton's 227 and making him the 45th president.

That contentious election reignited a debate over the Electoral College. And with another election quickly approaching, those embers may flare again.

The U.S. is the only country in the world with an electoral college system. A Pew Research Center report following the 2016 election found that only seven of 41 democracies with a combined head of state and national government bodies do not directly elect their leader but rather do it by way of a vote of their national legislative bodies. Only the U.S. has a separate body created every four years whose sole purpose is to elect the president.

When the system was created during the Constitutional Convention in 1787, it was a compromise between delegates who feared possible corruption if Congress chose the president and delegates who feared mob rule and voting by an uninformed public if the people directly chose the president. 

Each state's electoral votes match the number of representatives they have on Capitol Hill: two senators and however many seats the state has in the 435-member House of Representatives. With two senators and four congressional representatives, Nevada has six electoral votes.

Including Washington, D.C., which received its three electoral votes by way of the 23rd Amendment in 1961, there are 538 electoral votes up for grabs. Candidates need a majority, or at least 270, to win. If one candidate doesn't pull through with a majority of electoral votes, the House of Representatives chooses the president and the Senate chooses the vice president.

Most states, including Nevada, have a winner-take-all method for awarding electoral votes, meaning that even if one candidate wins by only one vote, the winner will get all of the electoral votes for the state. Only Nebraska and Maine have a different system, in which electoral votes are distributed based on who won the popular vote in each congressional district and the remaining two electoral votes are awarded to the overall winner of the popular vote of the state.

Champions of the Electoral College say it gives smaller states political weight and protects them from being steamrolled by states with hefty metropolises and large populations. This forces presidential candidates to run a national campaign that appeals to voters across the country and not just cater to the wishes of high population states.

Those against the Electoral College argue that the power given to rural and swing states, such as Nevada, is too much, and the power given to heavily populated states is too little.

Comparing the two extremes of California, the most populous state with about 39.5 million people, and Wyoming, the least populous state with an estimated 579,000 people, the electoral votes don't represent the same number of voters.

Dividing electoral votes by population, each one of California's 55 electoral votes represents about 718,000 people, while one electoral vote of Wyoming's three, the minimum, represents about 193,000 people. Opponents of the Electoral College say this distorts representation in presidential elections.

A proposed compromise between the two ends of the presidential election spectrum — choosing the president by the Electoral College and choosing that person by the popular vote — is the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The compact would keep the Electoral College in place but would have states pledge to give all of their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. Currently, 15 states and Washington, D.C. are on board and have a combined 196 electoral votes, but the compact won't go into effect until it has enough participating states to deliver 270 electoral votes in an election.

The Nevada Legislature narrowly approved joining the compact during the 2019 legislative session, but Gov. Steve Sisolak made the bill his first veto of the session, saying he would rather follow the will of Nevada voters rather than that of the nation as a whole.

The Indy Explains: What to do if the wrong mail ballot is sent to your address

Nevada’s decision to send out mail ballots to all registered voters for the 2020 election means that some voters have received a surprise in their mailbox — a ballot addressed to someone else.

It’s not unusual, especially in a highly transient state such as Nevada, for a person to receive mail meant for former residents. But the state’s decision to automatically mail out ballots means that voters have a higher-than-normal chance of receiving a ballot meant for someone else.

During the state’s June primary election, more than 223,000 ballots were returned as undeliverable mail — though a significant percentage of those ballots were mailed to ‘inactive’ voters (meaning they failed to confirm their address with the county but are still registered to vote). Inactive voters will not receive mail ballots for the state’s 2020 general election.

State and county officials say that ballots are sent to the wrong address because of issues with keeping voter rolls up to date. Election officials are typically not informed when someone moves out of state or to a different in-state residence (unless they register to vote at that new address), so there is sometimes a lag between addresses listed on the rolls and actual residences of voters.

So what should you do if you receive another person’s mail ballot?

Deputy Secretary of State for Elections Wayne Thorley said that voters who receive ballots for individuals not living at their address should write “Not at this address” in large letters on the outside of the envelope and put it back in the mail.

“It will get returned to the county election officials, and they can use that information to make the necessary changes in the voter rolls,” he said in a text message.

Washoe County Registrar of Voters Deanna Spikula said during a press briefing last week that ballots are sometimes sent to the wrong address when voters make a late update to their address on the voter registration database, after initial mail ballots are processed or sent out. 

She said the office is able to ‘suspend’ the initial ballot sent to a wrong address and issue a new one based on individual registration numbers attached to each mail ballot, but added that it helps to have the ‘suspended’ ballot sent back to the office with a notice on the envelope that the voter doesn’t live at that address anymore.

“It does happen,” she said. “It doesn't hurt to call our office and see which one was issued at the last point, because that's the one we want to count. That way we can account for all of our ballots that are out, and the ones that have been suspended.”

The Washoe County Registrar's office can be reached at 775-328-3670, or at absentballot@washoecounty.us.

A spokesman for the Clark County Election Department said that voters who receive a mail ballot sent to the wrong address should call 702-455-VOTE (8683) to help resolve the issue.

Election officials generally suggest reaching out to county election offices if you do not receive a ballot within seven days of it being mailed out. A list of county clerk contact information can be found here.

Voters can also cast their ballot in person during the two-week early voting period or on Election Day. If a person arrives at the polling site without a mail ballot, they’ll be asked to sign an affidavit saying that they will not also mail in a ballot.

Nevada election officials have taken some preliminary steps to address issues with updated voter roles, including becoming a member of the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) nonprofit, a data-sharing operation that helps states update their voter registration information based on individuals who move out of state, die, or duplicate registrations within the same state.

But only 30 states are part of that organization, with many — notably California — not cross-checking their voter registration information through the group.

The Indy Explains: What are the deadlines to register to vote in Nevada for the 2020 general election?

Nevadans may have heard that today is one of the voter registration deadlines for those who want to participate in the November general election. But in a state that now has same-day voter registration, what’s the significance of the day?

The deadline —- which applies to mail and in-person voter registration — is most important for recent arrivals to Nevada or people who don’t have a Nevada driver’s license or ID card, according to Washoe County Registrar Deanna Spikula. State identification is key for registering to vote online or getting registered at a polling place on Election Day or during early voting, which begins Oct. 17.

Others who may find the Oct. 6 deadline important are out-of-state students who are going to school in Nevada but haven’t updated their driver’s license yet. Seniors who don’t drive and therefore don’t have a license may also want to make special note of the Tuesday deadline.

While some counties have already started sending out ballots, people who register by the Oct. 6 deadline can still expect to receive a mail-in ballot and a sample ballot in their mailbox, Spikula said.

The deadline for online registration — which requires DMV-issued identification — is Oct. 29. While people who miss that deadline will still be able to register at a polling site the day they vote, the advantage is that people who register online will be able to bypass the registration step at the voting site and proceed directly to vote.

“It's just a quicker process if you're already registered in our poll book when you go to the voting location to check in,” Spikula said in a call with reporters on Monday.

Those who register by midnight on Oct. 15 will receive ballots in the mail, while those who register after that cutoff must vote in-person during early voting or on Election Day to participate, according to the Nevada secretary of state’s office.

To register or update registration information by mail, people are asked to download the application form, fill out the required information, print the form and mail it — or deliver it by hand — to the election official in the county where they reside. It must be postmarked by today to ensure a voter can participate in the general election.

Voters should update their information if their physical address, name or party affiliation has changed.

Those with a DMV-issued identification can check their registration status, update information such as their address or party affiliation, cancel their registration or register for the first time at RegisterToVoteNV.gov.

Important dates:

  • Oct. 6: Deadline for mailing in application to register to vote; deadline for in-person voter registration
  • Oct. 29: Deadline for registering to vote online
  • Oct. 17—30: Early voting (Nevadans can register to vote at polling places on the day they vote)
  • Nov. 3: Election Day (Nevadans can register to vote at polling places on the day they vote)

The Indy Explains: Question 6, raising renewable portfolio standard to 50 percent

An array of solar panels at the Copper Mountain Solar 3 facility

Formal name: The Renewable Energy Standards Initiative

Type of measure: Initiative petition to amend the Nevada Constitution

Summary of what it does: If approved, the measure would raise Nevada’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, or RPS, to 50 percent by 2030. Lawmakers in the 2019 Legislature approved a bill (SB358) that gradually raises that standard to 50 percent by 2030, in line with the proposed constitutional amendment.

An RPS generally requires an electric utility to ensure that a specified percentage of the electricity sold comes from renewable energy, which is tracked through a credit system. Credits can be bought and sold from different entities if a utility is short on its renewable mandate, and can be procured through biomass, geothermal energy, solar energy, waterpower, and wind or energy efficiency measures (until 2025).

If approved, the RPS would not immediately increase to 50 percent overnight — instead rising to 26 percent through 2022 and 2023 and rising by 8 percent every subsequent two-year period until 2030. The 2019 legislation actually sets a higher floor for the RPS than what’s called for in Question 6 — setting a higher portfolio standard through 2024, when it hits a 34 percent minimum.

Because credits can also be produced through energy efficiency programs or for electricity used by power plants that never makes it onto the grid, that often means there is a gap between the reported RPS threshold and actual amount of renewables in a utility’s fuel mix.

NV Energy, which supported the 2019 legislation raising the portfolio standard, has met its RPS goal for the past nine years and had a 24.2 compliance rate in 2018.

What have other states done?: At least 30 states, three territories and Washington, D.C. have adopted an RPS system, with another seven states and one territory establishing nonbinding renewable energy “goals,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Most of those states have RPS targets between 10 and 45 percent, but 14 states have requirements of 50 percent or greater — California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Arguments for passing Question 6: Supporters of the measure say that a higher RPS would result in more renewable energy generation and lower the amount of natural gas imported to the state. It also claims that a higher RPS would result in significant cuts in pollution and a higher air quality, as well as construction of new renewable power plants in the state.

They also point to the declining cost of solar power and energy storage, saying in the long run it will be cheaper to build renewable energy producing facilities in state as opposed to continuing to import natural gas from out-of-state.

“Nevada voters need to act, because we can’t rely on big energy companies alone to take action,” supporters wrote in formal arguments submitted to the secretary of state’s office. “Question 6 is the only measure on the ballot that will guarantee electric utilities keep their promise to move us to renewable energy, while maintaining flexibility so future legislatures can raise standards as technology improves.”

Arguments against passing Question 6: Opponents (in arguments submitted to the secretary of state’s office) cited a wide variety of reasons to oppose the measure, including the fact that the primary funder of the ballot question is a group closely associated with liberal California billionaire Tom Steyer. Opponents also said that amending the state’s Constitution to include an RPS would “handcuff” the state to a renewable energy industry still in its “infancy.”

“The representatives you vote for are better positioned to protect you when they’re allowed to induct renewable energy policies based on merits, rather than mandates that serve to punish consumers and impose flawed policies,” they wrote in formal arguments.

How Question 6 qualified for the ballot: The PAC supporting the ballot measure was able to turn in more than 230,000 signatures to state election officials in June 2018, far above the required 112,544 signatures needed to make it onto the ballot.

The measure passed comfortably on the 2018 ballot, with close to 60 percent of voters voting yes. It needed to be approved again in 2020 to be added to the state constitution.

Primary funders: Since the ballot question was launched in 2017, the political action committee supporting the ballot question (Nevadans for a Clean Energy Future) has raised more than $10.9 million — almost entirely contributed by NextGen Climate Action, a progressive advocacy group founded and funded by California billionaire Tom Steyer.

But since the 2018 election cycle, funding for the group has dropped off. Through 2020, it’s received $50,000 in contributions (from NextGen Climate Action) and spent $46,500, primarily on consultants.

Financial impact: Legislative Counsel Bureau analysts said in 2018 that they couldn’t determine the proposed constitutional amendment’s fiscal impact “with any reasonable degree of certainty,” given uncertainty over how the initiative will be implemented if approved by voters.

Similarly, the agency said it couldn’t predict how electricity prices would be affected if the measure passes. 

Status: If approved by voters in the 2020 Election, the provisions of Question 6 would become effective and part of the state Constitution as of Nov. 24, 2020.

The Indy Explains: Question 4, enshrining voting rights in the state Constitution

Formal name: State Constitutional Rights of Voters Amendment

Type of measure: Legislative resolution to amend the Nevada Constitution

Summary of what it does: If approved, it would add a list of 11 voting rights and privileges — known as the Voters’ Bill of Rights — to the state Constitution.

That list of rights was added to state law in 2002, following passage of the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002 that required states to post voter instructions, rights and information at polling places.

The list of provisions in the current “Voters’ Bill of Rights” — which under this ballot question would be added to the Constitution — includes the following:

  • Receive and cast a ballot that is written in a format that allows the clear identification of candidates and accurately records the voter’s selection of candidates 
  • Have questions concerning voting procedures answered and have an explanation of the procedures for voting posted conspicuously at the polling place
  • Vote without being intimidated, threatened, or coerced
  • Vote during any period of early voting or on Election Day if the voter has not yet voted and, at the time that the polls close, the voter is waiting in line to vote at a polling place at which, by law, the voter is entitled to vote
  • Return a spoiled ballot and receive a replacement ballot
  • Request assistance with voting, if needed
  • Receive a sample ballot that is accurate, informative, and delivered in a timely manner as provided by law
  • Receive instruction on the use of voting equipment during any period of early voting or on Election Day
  • Have equal access to the elections system without discrimination 
  • Have a uniform, statewide standard for counting and recounting all votes accurately as provided by law 
  • Have complaints about elections and election contests resolved fairly, accurately, and efficiently as provided by law

What have other states done?: Many states have constitutional language guaranteeing the right to vote, or have outlined similar lists of a voters’ rights in state law or policy. It’s more rare for a state to pass an amendment enshrining those rights in their state Constitution.

Many states have taken active steps or explicitly spell out the right to vote in their own Constitutions. The right to vote is not expressly granted in the U.S. Constitution, but is instead considered an “implied” right, meaning the several amendments that detail voting only outline what the government cannot do to limit voting.

A total of 49 states have some explicit provision granting the right to vote in their constitutions. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 30 states have implemented a state constitutional requirement that elections be “free,” which several courts have interpreted as guaranteeing all eligible voters access to the ballot.

Arguments for passing Question 4: Backers of the ballot question say placing the existing “Voters’ Bill of Rights” in the Nevada Constitution would provide “several simple, yet crucial, constitutional guarantees to protect both voters and the integrity of our elections.”

Backers also say that as the current requirements have been in state law for close to two decades, there should be little to no implementation costs if the measure is improved. 

“When you have had to fight for every right, you recognize the fundamental principles of having the ability to vote without encumbrance,” Democratic state Sen. Pat Spearman said while presenting the bill during a 2017 committee meeting. “Today, more than ever, it is important for us to protect those rights in the U.S. Constitution and in the Nevada Constitution.”

Arguments against passing Question 4: Opponents (in a digest published by the secretary of state’s office) say that basic voting rights are already enshrined in the federal and state constitutions, calling the ballot question a “solution in search of a problem.”

Opponents say that while voting rights are vitally important, they are not “timeless in their structure or application, and the forms they take may change substantially as the ways in which we vote and conduct elections evolve.” 

How Question 4 qualified for the ballot: This ballot question comes to voters after being approved in the 2017 and 2019 legislative sessions.

The measure was initially introduced as SJR3 in the 2017 Legislature, and passed out of both houses with bipartisan majorities; 21-0 in the Senate, and 38-3 in the Assembly.

SJR3 returned to the 2019 Legislature, where it passed unanimously out of both legislative houses — sending the proposed constitutional change to the 2020 ballot.

Primary funders: No political action committees or groups supporting or opposing this ballot measure have been formed.

Financial impact: As the provisions of Question 4 are similar to existing language on voting already enforced in state law, fiscal analysts expect there to be no financial effect on the state or local governments should the ballot question pass.

Status: If approved by a majority of voters, the language in Question 4 will become part of Nevada’s Constitution on Nov. 24.

The Indy Explains: Question 3, changing Nevada’s pardons and sentence commutations process

Guards walk inside High Desert State Prison as seen on Friday, Jan. 4, 2019.

Formal name: State Board of Pardons Commissioners Amendment

Type of measure: Legislative resolution to amend the Nevada Constitution

Summary of what it does: Since Nevada’s Constitution was adopted in 1864, the document has granted the governor, attorney general and members of the state Supreme Court the power to “remit fines and forfeitures,” “commute punishments” and “grant pardons, after convictions.”

This pardon power has limitations; it requires the governor to be on the prevailing side and limits any sentence commutation for the death penalty or life imprisonment. It also can’t grant pardons in cases of treason or impeachment.

Unlike the president’s pardon power, a pardon in Nevada does not seal criminal records or effectively erase a past criminal conviction. Instead, it “removes all disabilities resulting from conviction thereof.” As the state Board of Pardon Commissioners says on its website: “A pardon forgives but does not forget.”

Once inmates are released from incarceration, Nevada law (as of 2019) restores to them the right to vote, but certain other civil rights such as gun ownership or ability to serve on a jury cannot be restored unless they are granted a pardon.

In practice, this power is executed by the State Board of Pardon Commissioners, which is cited and has some of its other practices and functions outlined in state law, including a requirement to meet at least twice a year. 

If approved by voters, Question 3 would make several constitutional changes affecting the Board of Pardon Commissioners.

In addition to actually naming the board in the Constitution, the amendment would require the board to meet quarterly, and allow any member of the board to bring items forward for consideration (as opposed to just the governor). It also removes the requirement that the governor be part of the majority for any decision made by the board, removing that effective veto power.

Pardons board secretary Denise Davis told lawmakers in 2019 that the board averages between 10 to 15 applications pardon applications per year and another four to five requests from current inmates for sentence commutations.

Pardon applications can either come from a form on the pardons website, or be submitted to the board by one of the nine members. Pardon applications don’t just automatically go to the board; the Division of Parole and Probation conducts an investigation into the individual and produces a packet of information for board members to consider. 

Investigations take about a month each, but pardons officials told lawmakers in 2019 that the number of pardon requests has increased significantly in recent years, with a backlog at the time of about 200 pending applications. Davis told lawmakers that the process of an application being submitted and an investigation being completed can take up to two years.

What have other states done?: According to the Restoration of Rights Project, which tracks state policies on pardons, Nevada is one of four states (along with Florida, Minnesota, and Nebraska) that has a “shared power” pardon administration board with the governor serving on the board itself. 

Minnesota and Florida both require the governor to be part of the majority decision to grant a pardon, while Nebraska only requires a simple majority vote with or without the governor’s approval.

Six states have an independent pardons board, with another 22 — including Nevada — operating under a shared power system, where the governor and some kind of state board or agency work together to make decisions about pardons. Another 29 states have permissive consultation systems, where governors can grant pardons with or without consulting with a separate pardons board.

The Restoration of Rights Project considers Nevada to be in a group of 17 states with frequent and regular use of pardon powers, meaning they both have an established pardons process and a significant number of applications for a pardon are granted.

Arguments for passing Question 3: Backers of the ballot question (in a digest submitted to the secretary of state’s office) say that the changes in Question 3 will allow the Board of Pardons Commissioners to process its work “in a more timely and efficient manner.”

Backers say that in six of the last ten years, the pardons board has only met once during the calendar year, creating a backlog of applications for pardons and sentence commutations. Requiring the board to meet quarterly would allow for a more timely processing of those applications.

Removing the power of the governor to veto applications would also make the board more democratic and allow pardons to be granted based on the “collective wisdom” of the board, as opposed to just relying on the whims of the governor.

“The measure gives the ability for the Board members to schedule a case they feel has merit,” state Sen. James Ohrenschall said during a hearing on the measure last year. “If members know the governor believes the case does not have merit, the case rarely gets scheduled because it seems pointless.”

Arguments against passing Question 3: Opponents say (in a digest submitted to the secretary of state’s office) that requiring the board to meet quarterly may be inefficient, as it may have to meet even if there is a lack of qualified applicants.

They also say that as the chief executive of the state, the governor should be afforded the right to block decisions by the pardons board to grant clemency. They also say allowing other members of the board to propose matters “diminishes the Governor’s constitutional power and ability to act in the best interest of justice and fairness.”

“I am wondering why we would remove the veto power when he has the veto power to stop any one of our bills going through from the Legislative Branch, the second highest elected body,” Assemblyman Jim Wheeler said during a hearing on the bill in 2017. “Why would we take that power away from him?”

How Question 3 qualified for the ballot: What eventually became Question 3 on the 2020 ballot started out in the 2017 Legislature, where a quartet of Democratic lawmakers (David Parks, Tick Segerblom, Mark Manendo and James Ohrenshall) introduced the proposed constitutional change as Senate Joint Resolution 1.

As originally drafted, the measure would have replaced the Board of Pardons with a separate Clemency Board, with members appointed by the governor and other elected officials while fulfilling the same role of reviewing applications and granting pardons. A similar measure was introduced in the 2009 Legislature, but died after not coming back up for a vote in the 2011 Legislature.

But SJR1 was later amended to the current version, which keeps the current pardons board structure in place with several changes; bill sponsor Sen. David Parks said that was the wish of the seven members of the Nevada Supreme Court.

The resolution ultimately passed unanimously out of the Senate and on a 33-8 vote in the Assembly in 2017. It was approved again in the 2019 Legislature, passing unanimously in the Senate and on a 37-2 vote in the Assembly.

Primary funders: No political action committees or groups supporting or opposing this ballot measure have been formed.

Financial impact: A Legislative Counsel Bureau fiscal analysis of the ballot question found that adoption would likely cost the state possibly up to a quarter million dollars a year, because of more meetings and additional staff needed to process an expanded workload.

The ballot question’s requirement that the Board of Pardon Commissioners meet quarterly will likely increase the base cost of holding meetings, as the board previously only met once or twice a year. Fiscal analysts said the average cost to hold a meeting, based on historical expenses, is around $4,250.

The state’s Division of Parole and Probation, which provides staff support to the board, also indicated to fiscal analysts that the expected increased workload — both through the additional meetings and allowing any member of the board to bring matters for consideration — would require an additional two staff members to handle caseload (at a cost of $175,000 per fiscal year) and an administrative position, costing $65,000 per fiscal year.

Status: If approved by a majority of voters, the language in Question 3 will become part of Nevada’s Constitution on Nov. 24.