Group sues to head off county prostitution question on ballot
FALLON (AP) – A group has sued in an effort to scrap a November election on an initiative asking Churchill County voters whether they want to outlaw prostitution.
In the lawsuit filed in district court here last week, the group calling itself Nevadans for Freedom of Choice is asking a judge to bar county Clerk Gloria Venturacci from holding an election on the question.
George Flint of Reno, the group’s treasurer and executive director of the Nevada Brothel Association, declined comment.
“I’m not supposed to talk about any of this because it’s in court,” Flint said.
The suit alleges the petition process used to gather signatures for the initiative was flawed. It challenges some signatures, claiming those who circulated petitions – not actual signers – altered dates and made other changes.
The complaint also contends the affidavits of petition circulators did not contain proper sworn statements.
“Since the affidavits are legally insufficient, none of the signatures on the petition may be counted towards the 742 signatures required to qualify the measure for placement on the ballot,” the suit claims.
The Coalition to End Prostitution submitted petitions with 1,337 signatures to Venturacci’s office on May 21.
County commissioners placed the issue on the November ballot after Venturacci determined at least 742 valid signatures were turned in. That number represents 10 percent of registered voters who voted in the 2002 election.
Venturacci referred questions to the district attorney’s office.
“Our view is we will attempt to set forth the law that provides for certification by the clerk,” said Deputy District Attorney Rusty Jardine.
Elizabeth Earl, who spearheaded the petition drive, criticized the suit. She thinks prostitution is degrading to women and not in line with the county’s values. County voters approved legalized prostitution in 1974.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of merit to the complaint,” Earl said. “They tried to find little, technical, picky things to invalidate the petition. If we made any little mistakes, they were honest mistakes.”
Initiative organizer Alan Perazzo found irony in the suit.
“A group of people from outside of Fallon calling themselves Nevadans for Freedom of Choice is trying to keep us from being able to vote about legalized prostitution,” he said.
“It seems like a group calling themselves Nevadans for Freedom of Choice would want to let the people choose,” he said.