CARSON CITY, Nev. — Nevada’s “none of these candidates” voting option will be on the November ballot following an emergency stay sought by the secretary of state’s office and granted by a federal appeals court.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco blocked an injunction against the voting option on Tuesday and had strong words for U.S. District Judge Robert C. Jones, who last month declared it unconstitutional and struck it from the ballot.
One appellate judge accused Judge Jones, Nevada’s chief judge, of deliberate foot-dragging by delaying hearings in the case and not issuing a written order in time for state lawyers to appeal before ballots must be printed.
“His dilatory tactics appear to serve no purpose other than to seek to prevent the state from taking an appeal of his decision before it prints the ballots,” 9th Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote.
He concluded: “Such arrogance and assumption of power by one individual is not acceptable in our judicial system.”
Jennifer Lopez, spokeswoman for the Nevada attorney general’s office, said Wednesday that the ruling means the choice that appears as “none of these candidates” in statewide races will be on the November 2012 ballot, though the court appeals will continue.
A lawsuit backed by the Republican National Committee sought to get rid of Nevada’s unique “none” voting choice. The GOP fears “none” could siphon votes from the Republican candidates in what are expected to be tight presidential and U.S. Senate races.
Nevada is the only state in the nation that since 1976 has given voters the option to vote for “none” in races decided by voters statewide: for president, U.S. Senate, state constitutional offices and state Supreme Court.
In a polarized political climate and an electorate soured on politics, opponents think “none” gives voters an out from making a choice and that such voters would be more inclined to vote for a challenger, such as Mitt Romney, if “none” were eliminated.
Under Nevada law, “none” can never win even if it receives the most votes, though it never has in a general election contest.
Victory is reserved for people, though “none” before has played a role in determining the winner in some high-profile races.
In 1998, Democratic U.S. Sen. Harry Reid defeated then Republican Rep. John Ensign by 428 votes, but more than 8,000 voters rejected both men and opted for “none.”
Last month, Judge Jones said the law was unconstitutional because votes for “none” don’t count in the final tallies that determine winners. He issued a verbal ruling from the bench Aug. 22 but has yet to file a written order and has refused to stay his decision pending appeals despite pleas from state attorneys that ballots need to be finalized by Sept. 7 to be printed in time to be mailed to voters overseas.