Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2009 | 6:27 p.m.
CARSON CITY – An initiative petition has been filed to amend the Nevada Constitution to require employees to vote secretly when deciding whether to be represented by a union.
The petition, filed with the Secretary of State’s Office by a group called Save Our Secret Ballot, would require 97,002 signatures to qualify for the 2010 ballot.
Tibi Ellis, chairwoman of the group, said some union elections are now held in secret. But there are efforts to change that. She said in some cases union officials gather signatures to show employers that the workers want representation.
She said a public opinion poll shows 60 percent of union members support the drive.
She said the secret ballot initiative is already on the ballot in Arizona and Utah and the organization is trying to qualify it in Nevada, South Dakota, South Carolina, Colorado and Missouri.
Ellis, of Las Vegas, said unions challenged the language on the proposed ballot in Missouri and Colorado and it withstood those legal suits.
Danny Thompson, a representative of the unions, could not be reached for comment.
Congress is looking at allowing some elections to be held in without a secret ballot, Ellis said.
The petition says, “The right of individuals to vote by secret ballot is fundamental. Where local, state or federal law requires election for public office or ballot measures, or requires designations or authorization for employee representation, the right of individuals to vote by secret ballot shall be guaranteed.”
The petition was filed by Las Vegas lawyer Raymond E. McKay Esq., who said the initiative would be amended within days to include the names of the backers.
An explanation of the initiative says the secret ballot “was adopted to protect against voter intimidation and retaliation, particularly prevalent against minority voters.”
It said Congress is considering legislation to eliminate secret ballots for some elections. “Therefore Nevada voters need the opportunity to protect their secret ballot rights in the Nevada Constitution.”
If passed in the 2010 election, it would need approval in the 2012 election to be included in the Nevada Constitution.