Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020 | 2 a.m.
Removing same-sex marriage ban from the constitution
Same-sex marriage has been legal nationwide since 2015 under a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court, but the Nevada Constitution still contains language recognizing marriages only between a man and a woman. That clause was added to the constitution via a ballot measure approved by state voters in 2000 and 2002. This year’s Question 2 would enshrine same-sex marriage in the state constitution and remove the language that was added through the previous ballot question. The new amendment also establishes that religious organizations and clergy members have the right to refuse to perform a marriage.
Our recommendation — Yes.
The amendment from the early 2000s is a cruel leftover from the culture-wars era when conservative Republicans weaponized same-sex marriage as a wedge issue and propelled bans in several states. It’s time to reverse this blot on our history. Although same-sex marriage has been legal in Nevada since before the Supreme Court ruling, Question 2 will provide stronger protection for same-sex couples to get married and enjoy the benefits of marriage, such as raising children, joint ownership of property, etc. Nevadans strongly support the right of same-sex marriage, as they’ve shown over and over in public opinion polling and by electing candidates who also support the right. In the state Legislature, the vote to place the measure on the ballot was nearly unanimous after the religious exemption was added. We strongly support the question.
Board of Pardon Commissioners
This question would add the Board of Pardon Commissioners (which consists of the governor, the state Supreme Court justices and the Nevada attorney general) to the state constitution. It also makes a couple of key procedural changes that are designed to make the pardon process flow more smoothly and address a growing backlog of applications for pardons. One, it requires the board to meet quarterly, up from twice a year. Two, it removes a requirement that the governor be part of the majority for any decision made by the board — a simple majority vote would suffice. Put a different way, it removes what is essentially veto power from the governor, and also contains a new provision allowing any member of the commission to submit items for consideration. As is, only the governor can bring items forward.
Our recommendation — Yes.
Speeding up the clemency process is a good thing: When the issue last came up in the Legislature during 2019, the state Department of Corrections reported that there were more than 200 applications awaiting processing at that time, and applications were taking as long as two years to get from filing to a decision. Meeting more often will expedite matters. Although there’s no formal opposition group to the question, critics argue that the governor shouldn’t lose veto power. But we feel the governor simply has too much power. Not only could a governor essentially bring the process to a complete halt by refusing to bring any items forward for consideration, he or she could veto every request. Establishing a majority vote and letting all commissioners bring up items is a fairer way to go about it. This is a responsible and effective way to enhance criminal and social justice in Nevada.
Voters’ bill of rights
Question 4 would enshrine an existing voters’ bill of rights under state law to the Nevada Constitution. Among its provisions, it would guarantee voters can get answers to questions about voting procedures; have access to ballots that clearly identify candidates and accurately records the voter’s choices; can vote without being intimidated, threatened or coerced; can request assistance with voting; receive instructions on the use of voting equipment; be given equal access to voting regardless of ethnicity or any other form of discrimination; receive an accurate sample ballot; and more. The question also adds a requirement for a standardized and accurate vote-counting system into the state constitution. All of these elements have been codified in state law for more than two decades, but the amendment would further protect them by placing them in the constitution.
Our recommendation — Yes.
At a time when Republicans are waging a coast-to-coast assault on voting access, it’s critical for Nevada to protect our voting rights by cementing them into the constitution. Nevada is fortunate at the moment to have state leaders who support making voting more accessible and convenient, but that could change in future elections. Therefore, adding the rights to the constitution guarantees voters won’t be subjected to intimidation at the polls, or the type of voter suppression methods that Republicans are carrying out in other states — closing polls in areas heavy with progressive voters, limiting early voting and mail-in balloting, etc. Although there’s no organized opposition to Question 4, critics say it’s unnecessary because the rights already exist and therefore don’t need to be added to the constitution. But to critics who are worried about gumming up the constitution, we say the pressure to handle many issues as constitutional amendments wouldn’t be necessary if the Legislature met annually and there were a more orderly and consistent method of enacting policy in the state. In the right here and right now, though, Question 4 is a critical measure.
This question, which voters approved during its first appearance on the ballot in 2018, would add a stipulation to the state constitution for Nevada electric utilities to generate or acquire at least 50% of their power from renewable sources by 2030. Lawmakers enacted this same standard into state law last year, but if Question 6 passes in November the requirement will become part of the constitution. (By the way, if you’re wondering why there’s no Ballot Question 5, it’s because supporters of a proposed Question 5 weren’t able to obtain enough signatures to get it on the ballot.)
Our recommendation — Neutral.
As in 2018, we’re not taking a position on this question. Nothing has changed in the last two years that would prompt us to change what we said two years ago: “This is a well-intentioned measure, but we feel the market forces make it inevitable that the state will meet or even exceed these targets. The costs of renewable-energy generation are steadily falling, meaning it’s increasingly more cost-effective to build solar arrays, wind farms and geothermal generators than fossil fuel-burning plants.”