Covert petitioners subvert democracy

What are they up to now? That’s the question that ran through my mind when I read about a new coordinated campaign by Republicans to recall three female state senators in Southern Nevada. I was surprised because attempts to recall public officials are rare in Nevada and have never succeeded. And none of the targeted senators are incompetent, corrupt or involved in serious malfeasance while in office. In fact, the contrary is true. All three have demonstrated a high level of competence, trustworthiness and dedication. No reasonable person would put them on a recall list.

The proponents of the recall have been avoiding the news media ever since the story broke, although there have already been reports of signature gatherers on doorsteps spewing hateful rhetoric and misinformation designed to keep us divided over issues like taxes and immigration. To force a recall election in Nevada, a notice of intent must be filed, but the proponents don’t have to state a reason why they wish to recall the officeholder. They must collect signatures from 25 percent of the number of people who voted in the 2016 election within 90 days, and then a special election is quickly scheduled.

Only eight states set forth specific grounds for recalling an official such as incompetence, neglect of duties, or corruption. In Nevada, citizens may file recall petitions for any reason, even a nonexistent one.

Recalls in Nevada are difficult and for good reason. The recall process is arduous and meant to dissuade citizens from rejecting a duly elected official because the person made an unpopular political decision. The state and its voters have no interest in promoting a constant churning of elected officials or in footing the costs of special elections. According to the National Conference of State Legislators, no special election to recall a state legislator has ever been held in Nevada, much less three in one year for no reason.

The Republicans’ coordinated effort to recall these state Senators is a craven and offensive affront to our democracy. Although the proponents are avoiding the news media and hiding in the shadows, there are clues pointing directly to Senate Republicans and their ties to the dark money of Sheldon Adelson whose consultants always seem willing to burn his political cash even on a far-fetched, ridiculous plan to overturn election results.

Republican leader Michael Roberson, Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison and every Senate Republican should be ashamed of their roles in perpetuating this travesty. A statement like Sen. Heidi Gansert’s that “it will be up to the voters to decide” is really a disingenuous endorsement of the recalls and should be rejected by every Washoe County Republican. GOP residents should contact their party leaders and demand they withdraw the petitions. Although Gov. Sandoval insists his colleagues are “on their own” and says he won’t participate in the recalls, a stronger message of condemnation is needed from him and every other Republican officeholder against this attempt to manipulate our democracy.

Progressives and all voters of integrity must denounce the recalls and join together to actively urge their Southern Nevada friends and family, neighbors and co-workers to “decline to sign” the recall petitions. There are plenty of organizers in Las Vegas who can engage signature gatherers and waste their time at the door or in public places. They can organize people to protect their voting rights and work with investigative journalists to expose the recall proponents for the cowards they are.

As we watch Trump implode, we need to send a strong message to local Republicans to start acting with integrity or prepare for the electoral consequences. Let them know we will not silently endorse this subversive tactic to overturn our election results.

Remember, they can only hijack our democracy if we allow it.